Sales of electric and hybrid cars are rising quickly in the UK, with over 1,000 new vehicles registered in the third quarter of 2013.
People are switching to using electric cars because they are the environmentally friendly option, and less polluting than diesel or petrol cars. There are also many other incentives such as low levels of car tax, and being exempt from congestion charges.
Up until recently, the problem for many electric car owners has been finding somewhere to charge up their car during the working day or at night, and even though many towns and cities are introducing charging points, these are still few and far between.
Electric car technology is developing constantly, and one of the new branches of research is looking into converting power generated from your solar panels into power to charge the batteries of your electric vehicle.
Car Ports and Garages
One of the most effective and simple ways of using solar power to charge up your electric car is to install solar panels on the roof of your garage, or to build a special car port with panels installed on the roof.
This means that any electricity generated by those solar panels goes straight into powering the car rather than being drawn off to be used in other areas of the house instead. Assuming you have the space, building a car port is very quick as most of them come in modular kits which are simply slotted together.
This option is ideal for someone who works through the day and then wants to charge their car overnight, but perhaps not a good choice for people who work shifts, or who need to use their car more in the evenings than during the day.
One of the major advantages in using solar power, whether generated from panels on the house’s roof or on the garage, is the huge cost savings.
When you plug your electric car into the National Grid to charge it up at night, the electricity costs on average £3 every time you charge it. Cost for charging it from solar energy you have generated yourself is nothing.
Charging up your electric car isn’t completely free though, as you have to factor in both the cost of building your new car port or installing the solar panels on your roof, then installing the special kit needed to turn your home into a charging point, which costs around £1,500.
If you happen to live near a supermarket or other charging location, or if your employer provides one at work, it probably isn’t worth the added investment required to have a charging point at home too.
As with all new technologies, prices are dropping all of the time though so it is always important to work through the figures thoroughly before making any buying decision.
How Long Does It Take To Charge?
Most solar charging systems are designed to work overnight, for a period of at least 6 or 8 hours, which is fine if you do not need to use your car in the evenings. This is quite slow compared with the “rapid charge” points which can power your battery up to 80% charge within 30 minutes, but the same as the standard points which take the same length of time.
Again, the decision will come down to whether you have any charging points close to home or work, how convenient they are to use, and how often you will need to charge your car.
There are lots of electric car websites which allow you to enter your postcode and see what facilities are available in the local area. Rapid charging points are few and far between, but are bound to increase as the number of electric cars on the road starts to rise. If you live in a very rural area, you may have to wait some time though.
Once your car’s battery is fully charged up, the car will be able to do between 80 and 100 miles before needing charged again. New research into lithium batteries is well underway in the US, and early indications are that a new generation of batteries may soon be able to extend this range to 200 or more miles between charges.