Automakers eye solar-powered EV chargers

Posted by Shane McGlaun

Controversy continues to rage over claims that electric vehicle (EV) emission savings is offset by pollution generated at power plants.

In my humble opinion, there is a certain amount of truth to such claims, especially since the most common method of generating electricity in plants is still coal.

As such, major automakers are considering the production of more expensive chargers that generate power via solar energy.

Such chargers are expected to cost roughly $10,000 - but would allow electric driving to be completely carbon free. Plus, other than the initial cost of a charger, the power would obviously be free for the driver.

Motor Trend reports that Ford will be the first the auto manufacturer to market a carbon free solar power charging system, along with SunPower, a company which designs photovoltaic panels for residential and industrial solar power systems.

Ford and its partner intend to offer a solar EV charger that is capable of producing 2.5 kW of power - generating 3000 kWh of electricity each year. This would be enough power to facilitate 12,000 driving miles on a Ford focus EV on an annual basis. The charger is priced at approximately $13,800, which isn't much cheaper than the price of a decent new car. Fortunately, consumers are likely to pay somewhere between $6,000 and $10,000 after federal and local incentives are applied.

The charger uses E-18 monocrystalline silicon panels that claim to be up to 50% more efficient than conventional panels, while consuming less roof space. SunPower is also said to be working with Nissan on developing a solar charger for its EV, the Leaf.

Meanwhile, Honda is working on what may turn out to be the most advanced tech solar charger yet - via its Soltec subsidiary which is attempting to design solar panels based on copper-indium-gallium-[di]selenide (CIGS) materials, allowing the charger to perform better in shade.

I have long said the key to electric vehicles going mainstream hinges on improving battery and charger technology. If chargers can recharge the battery in an EV in an hour or less rather than the several hours it takes currently for most electric vehicles, drivers will be more open to purchasing an EV and won't worry as much about range.