Solar EV Chargers: Power Your Car with Sunshine
13,476 miles. That’s how much the average American drives each year, according to the US Department of Transportation. To put that in perspective, you can drive from Anchorage, AK to Miam i, FL and back in 9,916 miles.
At a national average of 24.7 mpg, our vehicles will each suck up about 546 gallons of gas this year. which costs around 1,650. We’ll also each contribute 4.6 metric tons of CO 2 to Earth’s atmosphere.
Whether it’s to cut expenses, do your part for the environment, or a little of both, more and more Americans are making the switch to hybrid or electric cars. But these next-generation vehicles still need fuel, and electricity isn’t free. unless you have solar power.
Find out what options you have for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, how much they’ll cost you, and how many panels you’ll need to power your car.
The Types and Costs of EV Car Chargers
There are three types of EV chargers, and which type you decide to install will dictate the cost. Currently, Paradise Energy offers options for private chargers, integrated private chargers, and public chargers.
Private EV Charger
A private EV charging station will allow you to plug in your electric vehicle and charge up your car’s battery. These can be hooked up to a solar panel system or it can be grid-tied, so if you have an electric car but no solar panels, it’s a great home charging station option.
Costs for a charging station like this will be in the neighborhood of 2,000. 3,000, if installed in conjunction with a solar array. The cost will depend on several factors, including how far it is installed from your main distribution panel, and whether or not trenching will be required.
Integrated Private EV Charger
An integrated private charger is similar, but can only be installed with a solar system that has a solar inverter that’s the right brand and size. At Paradise Energy, we offer a SolarEdge EV charging station that integrates with some SolarEdge inverters.
For this option, a 25-foot charging cable is connected directly to your inverter. While this is the least expensive option, your SolarEdge inverter must be in a location where you can pull up your car and park it for a few hours. Granted you are installing the proper inverter, this solar-power EV car charger and its installation will cost around 1,100 if it is installed at the same time as the solar array.
Public EV Charger
The third option is a public charger. These are intended for commercial use and allow their owners to charge a fee to those who use them. They’re also the most expensive option and require ongoing software updates.
These updates are integrated with an app that lets people see where EV charging stations are located and which charging stations are already occupied. They can also reserve their spot in a virtual line, so they don’t have to wait around for their turn to charge.
A public charger that is integrated with a solar system will likely cost you in the ballpark of 15,000. A public charger that is not integrated with a solar system can run around 20,000 or more. You’ll also have to pay for continued software maintenance for the app.
Charging Times and DC Fast Chargers
If charging speed is important to you, DC fast chargers may be an option. A standard 7.6 kW charger can charge a 16 kWh battery in about two hours and a 90 kWh battery in ten to 12 hours. However, a 50 kW DC fast charger can charge a 16 kWh battery in just 20 minutes and a 90 kWh battery in under two hours.
While those charging speeds sound attractive, they come at a high price. A DC fast charger can costs upwards of 60,000.
How Many Solar Panels Does It Take to Charge an Electric Car?
Electricity is expensive, just like gas. While you can hook your EV charger to the grid and pay your utility to charge your car, you could also cut your carbon emissions by using renewable energy instead. If you have a solar system or you’re considering installing one to power your EV charger, it may take fewer solar panels than you think.
As a general estimate, it could take in the neighborhood of eight and 14 solar panels to charge your electric car. This depends on how much you drive, the efficiency of your vehicle, the sunshine in your area, and the type of panels you have installed. The installation cost for a system of this size would likely be 20,000 to 25,000 before incentives.
To get a clearer picture, you’ll have to determine how much electricity your car uses. We’ll take a look at how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) it takes for your car to travel 100 miles. To find this out, you can look up your vehicle on fueleconomy.gov. The number you need will be at the bottom of the green EPA Fuel Economy box:
Once you have that information, find out how much extra electricity you’ll need to power your car each month with the following formula:
(kWh per 100 Mi for your electric vehicle monthly miles driven) / 100 = kWh needed per month
Or, use our calculator below:
Here’s an example. Sticking with our averages, we’ll say we drive 1,100 miles each month with a car that uses 30 kWh of electricity to travel 100 miles. Crunching the numbers, we’ll need 330 kWh to travel that distance each month.
How many solar panels is that? It’s hard to give an exact answer, because how much electricity one solar panel produces is based on the type of panel, where it’s installed, and the weather in your area. A general estimate is that one panel can produce around 30 kWh each month. Divide the 330 kWh you need to power your electric car by 30 kWh, and you get 11 panels.
One option for these solar panels is installing them as a carport, so you’ll have a place to park your car while it’s charging. You can also add EV chargers to an existing system or integrate it into a new, larger system that powers the rest of your home or business.
How and why to use solar panels to charge an electric car
There may not be a better pairing than home solar panels and electric cars. Both of these exciting technologies represent a major shift away from how things have been done for a long time. Together they are sparking a revolution in self-reliance while helping to lead to a better future for everyone.
Electric vehicles (EVs) are more efficient and less expensive than gas cars and aren’t susceptible to the huge fluctuations in gas seen in recent years. Our solar-powered EV report shows that electric cars become even cheaper when you fill the battery at home with rooftop solar panels. In addition, pairing an EV with solar panels massively reduces your carbon footprint.
Let’s dive into the numbers to show exactly how much better EVs are compared to gas cars, then explore how many solar panels you might need to offset the energy needs based on the EV in your driveway.
- Home solar is cheaper and cleaner than grid power over the long term in almost every place in the United States.
- Public EV charging is even more expensive than grid power and no less polluting, for the most part.
- A home needs between five and ten 400-watt solar panels to charge an EV for an average day of driving.
- The same panels that charge your first EV will last long enough to charge your second and third, up to 30 or 40 years.
Why you should charge your electric car with solar panels
The reasons to charge your EV with solar panels are simple: it’s the cheapest and cleanest way to fuel a motor vehicle.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average American drives about 13,500 miles per year or about 40 miles per day. Over the course of a year, the driver of a gas-powered Hyundai Kona will pay around 1,440 for the 420 gallons of gasoline they’d need to go that far (based on 32 mpg fuel economy). Gas fluctuate, and due to inflation and the war in Ukraine, they’re basically as high as they’ve ever been:
Gas have jumped around wildly in the past two years. Image source: AAA
If the driver chose a Kona EV instead, they’d need to buy 27 kWh of electricity for every 100 miles they drive, or 3,645 kWh per year. At the average electricity price of 0.2282/kWh in California, they’d pay just 830 for their annual driving, saving over 600 compared to gas. In a cheap electricity state like Florida, where electricity costs about 0.1190/kWh, that annual cost to charge an EV drops to about 435, saving the driver 1,000 in fuel costs in a year.
But charging that EV from solar is even better. Let us count the reasons:
- The levelized cost of solar energy is usually cheaper than grid power.
- The cost of grid power goes up over time, while solar panels keep producing electricity without additional cost.
- Solar panels are far less polluting than gasoline or electricity from the grid:
- 420 gallons of gas results in 8,135 lbs of CO2 emissions
- 3,645 kWh of California grid power results in 1,837 lbs of CO2 (0.5 lbs/kWh 35 lbs CO2 from EV lithium battery production)
- 3,645 kWh of home solar energy results in 321 lbs of CO2 (0.088 lbs/kWh 35 lbs CO2 from EV battery)
Switching to an EV already means you’re cutting emissions by eliminating the need for gasoline and oil, but electricity from the grid still comes mostly from natural gas and coal. Just a handful of solar panels on your roof is enough to provide energy to charge your first EV, and your second, your third, and so on.
Again, those panels will last at least 25 years. No wonder they call it renewable energy. Who knows—maybe they’ll even help power your first flying car?
Here’s an infographic that shows why EVs and solar panels are a perfect match:
How many solar panels do you need to charge your EV?
Cost to charge an electric car with solar and without
When you own an electric vehicle, every outlet is potentially a way to get a few more miles into your car’s batteries. Realistically, though, you’ll want to find a Level 2 EV charger for home use or the equivalent of a Tesla supercharger if you’re out on the road.
There are basically three ways to get the juice that’ll keep your car on the road: the grid, public charging stations, or your own solar panels.
Here’s how much each costs:
|Type of charging||Cost||Notes|
|Grid power at home||0.10 to 0.40 per kWh||Varies based on location and time; cheapest at night; cost increases over time|
|Public charging stations||0.31 to 0.69 per kWh||Varies based on location and charging station owner; additional idle fees; some require monthly subscription; cost increases over time|
|Solar power at home||Around 0.06/kWh||Levelized over the solar panels’ lifetime; additional solar energy can be used to offset electricity bill|
Charging from the grid at home
You can charge an EV at home without solar, but it’ll cost you. Image source: Electrek
The ongoing cost of fuel from the grid is whatever you currently pay for a kilowatt-hour (kWh). In the United States, that can be between 0.10 and 0.40 depending on where you live, but the average is about 0.15/kWh. For every kWh in your battery, you’ll get about 3 to 4 miles of range, so about 12 kWh will get you a 40-mile round trip every day, at an average cost of 1.80.
That’s how it looks now, but electricity rise like everything else, so next year, you might be paying 2 or 3% more for electricity, and over the lifetime of your car, could rise much higher. Over the next 25 years, your average cost for a kWh of grid power will be around 19 cents if electricity rise 2.8% per year and you live in a state where electricity is currently 0.15/kWh.
At historical rates of energy cost increase, Californians will start out paying 830 per year to charge an EV, and end up paying about 1,300 per year in 20 years when using grid power.
Complicating matters just a bit is the concept of Time-of-Use billing (TOU), which means that electricity costs different amounts at different times of day. As an EV owner, you likely have the option of choosing a TOU plan and charging your car exclusively at night, when electricity is cheapest. TOU billing rates vary widely between states, with some overnight off-peak rates as low as 0.07/kWh, while others such as SDGE in California bottom out at 0.31/kWh.
Public charging stations
You won’t need it often, but public EV charging stations are sometimes necessary. Image source: Electrive
When you’re out in the world and need to top up the “tank,” you’re going to be looking for a public charging station to do it. To a certain extent, this is unavoidable if you own an EV, but you will save a lot of money if you can limit how often you do it.
Of course, there are free EV charging stations located all around the country, but for the most part, you’ll probably be paying for the electricity you need, and paying a lot, at that.
for charging vary by location. For example, Tesla charging stations currently cost around 0.25/kWh for Tesla owners, with higher in California and other states with high electricity prices. Services like Electrify America and Blink are even more costly, with a minimum charge of 0.31/kWh, and a maximum of 69/kWh for fast charging, sometimes dependent on whether you pay a monthly membership fee first.
At 0.31/kWh with a 4 monthly membership fee, charging with Electrify America would cost the owner of our proverbial Hyundai Kona 1,134 for their 3,645 kWh of charging—more than twice the average cost of charging with grid power at home, but still cheaper than gas!
Charging with home solar
Realistically, you won’t have wind turbines in your backyard, but you can dream!
If you pay for a solar panel system at your home, you’ll have to either lay out some cash or take a solar loan and pay over time. That’s not a small expense, but you can compare it to the cost of paying for electricity for the next 25 years.
To do that, you calculate the Levelized Cost of Energy, or LCOE, which is just the total cost of installation spread over all the electricity your solar panels will generate in their lifetimes and adjusted for inflation.
The good news here is the LCOE of home solar in the U.S. is currently about 0.06/kWh for systems with a current average solar installation cost of 3.00 per watt (as of February 2023) before the federal solar tax credit. In states with lots of sun, like California, or states with additional incentives, like Massachusetts, solar LCOE is much lower.
Basically, by guaranteeing your fuel source (solar) for the next 25 years, you’ll save a bundle of money on EV charging.
Do you need home solar batteries to store energy for EV charging?
Many people worry that they’ll need a battery such as the Tesla Powerwall to store solar energy they will later use to charge their EV. We’re here to tell you that’s not necessary, and it may not even be very practical.
Take the Tesla Model 3: depending on which version you choose, it will have a battery of between 54 and 82 kWh. You would need between 4 and 6 Powerwalls in order to store enough energy to fill the car’s battery from stored solar energy. Those Powerwalls would cost you at least 30,000, in addition to the cost of solar panels and a car.
Luckily, dropping 30 racks on sleek home batteries is unnecessary. First, you won’t often need to charge the car’s full battery in one go. Second, you’ll likely get net metering benefits, meaning you earn credit for extra solar energy that you send to the grid during the day, which you draw from when charging your car at night. With net metering, the grid acts as your “battery.”
As an added bonus, net metering and TOU billing can combine to make solar car charging a heck of a good deal. When your solar panels make electricity during the day, you earn net metering credits at the higher daytime prices, and are then able to charge the car at the low overnight prices. It’s the best of both worlds!
When solar charging isn’t a good idea
The numbers we gave above are averages that show the general benefits of solar and EVs together. There will always be specific cases where charging an EV from solar isn’t the best choice.
Specifically, if your state doesn’t offer net metering, your utility has very low overnight energy on a TOU plan, or your roof isn’t right for solar because it’s too shaded, you might be better off charging your electric car from the grid.
What about cars with solar panels built in?
We wish we had better news for you here, but cars with solar cells built into their bodies are not the answer to all the world’s problems. On the sunniest days with the car parked in the perfect, shade-free spot for the whole day, the solar cells will make enough electricity to get the car an extra 10 to 20 miles of range.
How to charge an EV with solar
Now that you know why you should charge an electric car with solar panels, here’s a little more about how to do it, to make sure you add the right number of panels and get a good value for the long term.
Here are the steps to use solar panels to charge your electric car:
- Step 1: Determine how many kWh you need for your car for your driving habits
- Step 2: Figure out how many solar panels you need to make those kWh
- Step 3: Purchase solar equipment that can make that much electricity
- Step 4: Get a Level 2 car charger
- Step 5: Enjoy!
Determine how many kWh you need every day
The first step is to find out how many kWh are needed to drive your car. If you keep track of mileage over a year, this step can be pretty easy. If not, you can estimate using an average number of miles per day.
As we said above, the average American drives about 40 miles per day. Let’s use that as a baseline. Here are the most efficient electric cars for 2023, excluding plug-in hybrid cars:
Top-selling U.S. electric vehicles in 2023 by efficiency
|Make and model||kWh for 40 Mi. daily range|
|Lucid Air Pure AWD||9.6|
|Hyundai Ioniq 6 SE RWD||9.64|
|Tesla Model 3 RWD||10|
|Hyundai Kona Electric||10.8|
|Chevrolet Bolt EV||11.2|
|Kia EV6 Standard Range RWD||11.2|
|Tesla Model S||11.2|
|Tesla Model Y AWD||11.2|
|Chevrolet Bolt EUV||11.6|
|Kia Niro Electric||11.6|
|Hyundai Ioniq 5 RWD||12|
|MINI Cooper SE Hardtop 2 door||12.4|
|Polestar 2 Single Motor||12.4|
|Subaru Solterra AWD||12.4|
|Ford Mustang Mach-E RWD||13.2|
|Audi e-tron GT||16.4|
|Ford F-150 Lightning 4WD||19.2|
Sorted from most efficient to least; data from FuelEconomy.gov; where multiple trim levels exist, the most efficient was chosen to limit each car model to one entry.
How many solar panels you need to charge your electric car
Based on the table above, you’ll need between around 10 and 12 kWh of electricity per day to charge the most efficient electric cars, but even power-hungry premium EVs like the Ford F-150 Lightning need less than 20 kWh per day for 40 miles of range. Now it’s time to figure out how many solar panels you’ll need to make that much electricity.
The average modern solar panel can put out around 400 watts under full sun, and gets between 3 and 7 peak sun hours per day, depending on where you live. That means our solar panel makes between 1.2 to 3.0 kWh of electricity every day (400 x 3 at the low end or 400 x 7.5 at the high end).
Let’s say you get 2 kWh per day, per panel. You’d need just five panels to make enough energy to charge a Tesla Model 3 battery and get 40 miles of range. That’s not very many! Of course, the number of panels increases if you need more than a 40-mile range.
Using the same math, you can determine that every EV on our list above needs just 5 to 7 solar panels to charge it every day. On the high side, you’d need 10 panels to make enough energy to drive 40 miles in a Ford F-150 LIghtning. Clearly, that is a truck that doesn’t sip the sun juice.
How many solar panels do you need to charge your EV?
Buy the equipment needed to charge your electric car with solar
Of course you can’t just stick five solar panels on your roof and plug them into your car. You need a solar panel system and all the equipment that goes with it.
A typical solar EV charging setup would include the following:
- Solar panels on your roof, mounted on metal racks and attached to the roof deck
- Either a string inverter that combines the DC output of the solar panels to AC, or microinverters that convert each panel’s output to AC and send it to a combiner box that connects to your main AC panel
- A Level 2 EV charger (or, combine 2 into 1 with an EV-charging solar inverter like the SolarEdge SE7600H)
What to do if you already have solar. If you’re a current solar owner and you’re thinking about adding an EV, you can just get a Level 2 EV charger if you have room for a new 50-amp breaker in your main panel. If you want to expand your solar array to meet the needs of charging an EV, you can use the guide above to see how many panels you’ll need for your estimated usage. You can also use our free and easy-to-use solar panel calculator.
Congratulations! You now have a solar-powered electric car. To be fair, unless you’re charging during the day when the sun is up, the electrons stored in your car’s batteries won’t be the same ones knocked loose from the silicon in your panels.
Instead, you’ll be producing enough solar electricity to offset your car’s needs over the course of the year, reducing your carbon footprint, and saving money. all at the same time. And those same five panels can produce electricity for decades to come. 25 years of fuel all on a small section of your roof.
The bottom line:
Making the switch from fossil fuels to solar electricity is good for your book, and also a great way to shrink your carbon footprint. The higher initial cost of an electric car can be quickly offset by the fuel cost savings you’ll see, and many EVs still qualify for state and federal electric vehicle incentives to reduce the upfront cost by 7,500 or more.
The amount of energy you’ll need depends on your car’s battery capacity and your average miles driven per day, but no matter how much electricity you need, you’ll probably save a lot of money if you charge that car with home solar panels.
Solar Policy Analyst and Researcher
Ben is a writer, researcher, and data analysis expert who has worked for clients in the sustainability, public administration, and clean energy sectors.
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SolarEdge 6.0 kW EV Charger and Solar Inverter
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Sungrow introduces new residential solutions with EV charger to enable more powerful, flexible renewable energy systems
Maximizing consumption of self-generated power has never been more relevant. Due to high electricity prices, both homes and businesses are on the lookout for cutting-edge tech solutions to optimize the use of their rooftop PV’s output and gain greater energy independence. And some new products coming from Sungrow are designed to do exactly that, pushing the envelope on innovation and quality.
Charging EVs using solarstorageEV chargers is not only superior for environmental reasons, but also in terms of savings.
As rising gas continue to push up the cost of electricity across Europe, the economic burden on businesses and households is increasing. Those with solar on their rooftops are better positioned to deal with such price hikes and are looking for ways to maximize every advantage of their systems.
For solar homes seeking to increase their energy independence, the way to go is all electric. Ideally, households should optimize the use of each and every green electron their rooftop PV systems are producing and direct them to their batteries for greater self-consumption and their wallboxes to power their transportation needs.
The forward-thinking RD team at Chinese manufacturer Sungrow has already come up with a solution to meet all these needs in one. Its 3-phase all-in-one Smart system featuring a hybrid inverter and battery solution, EV charger, and fully integrated monitoring iSolarCloud allows homeowners to embrace full control of their energy production and consumption.
The three-phase hybrid inverter and the battery included in the kit have been on the market for some time, but when coupled with the AC011E-01 EV Charger, an 11kW AC charger with IP 65 protection, their benefits are multiplied. Charging the electric vehicle from solarstorageEV charger as opposed to charging from the grid is not only superior for environmental reasons, but also in terms of savings.
The whole solution can be monitored and managed via Sungrow’s free of charge monitoring platform: iSolarCloud, which receives fresh data from the inverter every 10 seconds so the homeowner can check energy flow and self-consumption in near real time.
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Choosing the right EV charging solution for your home is no easy task and one of the performance criteria to keep an eye on is flexibility. Sungrow’s AC011E-01 EV Charger offers four different charging modes to fit all needs.
The integration into iSolarCloud allows to accurately monitor PV production, to store surplus in the home battery, and to coordinate the optimal charge of the electric vehicle using only local renewable energy or a mix from all sources for fast charging.
Furthermore, it’s possible to set a specific amount of kWh and a desired pickup time. The EV-charger will create the optimal charging mix, making sure to use as much self-generated renewable energy as possible.
The Sungrow EV charger
Sungrow Power Supply Co., Ltd has installed over 224 GW worth of PV inverters worldwide as of December 2021. Founded in 1997 by University Professor Cao Renxian, the company is a leader in the research and development of inverters with the largest dedicated RD team in the industry and a broad product portfolio. Offering PV inverter solutions and energy storage systems for utility-scale, commercial industrial, and residential applications, as well as internationally recognized floating PV plant solutions, NEV driving solutions and EV charging solutions, Sungrow powers installations in over 150 countries.
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