Solar Panels for your Car

Building a solar panel on your car and disconnecting completely from the grid is quite a challenge even for the most determined of us.


Some amazing facts:

  • Just 9 solar panels provide roughly enough electricity to power 12,000 miles of electric driving each year
  • Level II charging station delivers full vehicle battery charge in 4 to 8 hours depending on vehicle range
  • If you would otherwise drive a 20mpg vehicle, your solar electric panels charging your electric car will pay for themselves in around 2 years. Over 20 years, this will be like paying $0.32/gal for gasoline!
  • The Chevy Volt of Evan Sohm, owner of a solarized home in Londonderry, NH

One of our customers, who has a Volt, tells his story:

I drive from Londonderry, NH to Methuen, MA for work, Monday thru Friday. It’s approximately a 37 mile round trip; the Volt will go approximately 40 miles on 10kWHr of charge. As a result, I’ve been driving the Volt to and from work without using any gas.

The PV Solar Panels on my roof produce 4kW of power in full sun. So if the sun shines on my roof for 2.5hours, that produces 10kWHr of energy which is enough to drive the car for 40 miles! On average our PV system produces 18.9kWhr/day. If you use all that energy to charge the Volt you could drive 75 miles per day with zero fuel expenses.

If we drove a regular car that gets 25mpg for 75 miles, that would require 3 gallons of gas. So for us, it’s like our solar panels produce 3 gallons of gas per day, every day.

I couldn’t be happier, because in all honesty, I hate giving my money to the oil companies. Not only do I get to save money and help the environment, but I get to drive a really cool car! Everybody who takes a ride in it says it’s like a space ship. But the Chevy Volt is not rocket science. It’s like any other regular car, only much more efficient. So far, I’ve driven 7,000 miles and the lifetime fuel economy is 107mpg.– Evan Sohm, Londonderry, NH

However, doing so in stages, starting from, let’s say, charging cell phones and laptops, does not have to be too hard. Here is a suggestion where to start and how to do it.

To make the most use out of your solar panels you would have to install them at a place where there is maximum incoming sunlight throughout the whole day. Unfortunately for most of us, the sides of house rooftops always face a single direction guaranteeing that for some parts of the day the sun will not be shining on the panels.

But how about making the panels mobile by building your own car solar panel? Now, that is really cool, especially when there is a way to do it without causing any damage to the roof surface and without having to drill a single hole. Yes, the panels will not be sufficient to charge up a huge battery to power your fridge and stove, but you can easily generate enough to charge up your laptop and smart phone with only solar power.

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The materials you need do not include anything extra to the package deal you get when you purchase 17-watt solar panels. Thanks to the great initiative and instructions from Tafline Laylin over on Inhabitat, we can all benefit from this easy and highly efficient tip.

If you would like to follow the video tutorial, which you can find here, to the full, then you might want to opt for the 17W solar power kit from Voltaic Systems. The panels are light and waterproof, and come with V72 laptop battery suitable to charge tablets, cell phones, digital cameras and laptops, and the essential neodymium magnets that make the fitting to the roof possible. All these come at the reasonable price of $265.


I guess, the only limitation that I see is that in order for the car solar panel to work properly, without risk of any damage, is to use it only when the vehicle is not in motion. But taking into account that apparently one hour of sun exposure would guarantee an hour of laptop working time (I’m assuming this does not mean video streaming and the laptop is not the high-end fancy one), a car solar panel is perfect for camping, working trips, or any type of scientific field work.

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How to Install Solar Panels On Your Car!

Enjoy your new fancy car solar panel!