How to make the most of solar energy as an EV owner

Solar System | 11 April 2024

As an EV (electric vehicle) owner or someone contemplating buying one, you likely already know the many benefits of ditching your diesel or petrol-powered wheels for an electric car. For starters, EVs have a lower environmental impact and are typically cheaper to run and maintain. However, there are even more gains to be made as an electric car driver if you decide to generate your own electricity and use solar panels for EV charging

In this article, we examine what the advantages are of using solar energy and how to make the most of it when you’re an electric car driver. 

Environmental Benefits of Solar Energy

One of the biggest boons of using solar energy for EV charging is its low environmental impact. A clean, emissions-free, and renewable energy source, solar power produces electricity from the sun that can then be used to power up your home and car. 

Unlike petrol and diesel fuel which can harm our health and help cause climate change, sun-soaked energy doesn’t release toxic substances or contaminants into the air and water, and boasts a low water-consumption footprint too. This latter point is worth keeping in mind when you consider the current water scarcity crisis in several parts of Europe and the world.

Economic Benefits of Solar Energy

Sourcing your energy from the sun makes practical sense in an era of fast-rising energy rates. After all, while having an electric car means avoiding the ever-increasing price of petrol, it doesn’t stop your need for electricity. Installing home solar panels through which you can produce your electricity to power your EV and home utilities will go a long way to greatly reduce your energy bills. Even if you don’t produce all of the energy you consume, you can still slash up to £420 off your yearly energy bills according to Energy Saving Trust estimates.

In addition, under the smart export guarantee (SEG) scheme, which launched in January 2020, British households can receive payment for any solar energy they ‘export’ back to the electricity grid. 

Return on Investment 

However, while solar energy might be free, installing solar panels on your home isn’t. The cost of buying and installing a 4kW solar panel system (8-12 panels), which is one of the most common domestic sizes, can set you back anything between £8,000 – £10,000. 

And yet while fitting a solar system in your home can be initially expensive, the returns start immediately. Lower electricity bills are not just a one-off; over your solar panels’ lifetime, you’ll save thousands of pounds in energy costs both for your home as well as your car. According to the green energy solutions company Green Match, individuals who install a 4kW solar panel system can expect a return of approximately £770 in their first year. And while that means it may take a little over 10 years for the system to pay for itself, the overall savings over 25 years amount to around £19,300. 

Additionally, installing solar panels increases the value of your property. One recent UK study by insurance company Admiral suggests that the increase could be as much as 25 per cent.

Energy Independence

As an EV owner, using a solar system to charge your vehicle at home can also help you achieve a much greater level of energy independence. 

A solar car charger can power up your electric car during peak sun hours and top it up with grid electricity at times when solar production is low.  Better yet, if using a smart solar EV charger like the VCHRGD Seven from Powerverse, you can set it to only fuel your car when your panels are producing at their peak. By installing a battery storage solution to store the excess solar energy, you can then draw on that during periods of low solar generation and high electricity demand, maximising self-consumption and minimising overall dependence on the grid for charging. 

Considerations to Make the Most of Solar Energy

If you really want to make the most of solar energy as an EV owner, then there are a few considerations to take onboard, particularly when it comes to your average driving distances per day, the size of your solar system and whether you’re using smart charging and making use of the most competitive EV tariffs.

Average Driving Distances

The Department of Transport notes that 99 per cent of car journeys in England are under 100 miles. Considering that the average range for all available electric cars, meanwhile, is 236 miles, then it’s likely that most EV drivers won’t be recharging their car batteries daily. That means you’d need far less solar power and, therefore, fewer solar panels, to recharge your EV if covering these distances. 

The Size of Your Solar System

Of course, this begs the question: How many solar panels do you need? Unfortunately, that’s not so easily answered. In simple terms, the more panels you have, the greater the energy production potential. Yet you’ll also need to take in average driving distance, how often you recharge your EV, and even where your home is located. 

The UK is located in the North Hemisphere which naturally doesn’t get a lot of sunlight. Generally, the less sunlight you can depend on, the more solar panels you’ll need. But if you only ever use your EV to travel back and forth to work or drop the kids to school, then having more than a couple of panels may not be necessary. Plus, the direction your solar panels face and the angle at which they’re tilted all play a part in overall electricity production. You can also integrate battery storage into your system, which will allow you to store and recharge your car at later times. 

For further details on your specific solar power requirements, feel free to contact the experts at Powerverse, who are only too happy to answer your queries. 

Optimising Your Solar System with Smart Charging

If you have rooftop solar panels or are thinking of installing them, it makes absolute sense to optimise them with a solar-compatible charger like the VCHRGD Seven. This kind of solar-compatible car charger can really help you get the most out of your solar energy supply. 

For starters, with a smart, app-controlled EV charger, you can configure it to only ever juice up your vehicle with excess sun-powered energy. This could mean, drawing electricity from your solar panels during peak sun hours, For starters, with a smart, app-controlled EV charger, you can configure it to only ever juice up your vehicle with excess sun-powered energy. By utilising the smart charging features, you can automatically time your EV charging to coincide with peak periods of sunshine, therefore maximising the use of solar-generated electricity.

Equally, you can set the car charger so that it uses a combination of solar and grid energy. This is particularly useful if fuelling your EV for a long trip or if relentless cloudy skies and dull days mean that the amount of peak sunlight hours is limited. 

Either way, the results are the same—low cost and great convenience, not to mention curbing your carbon footprint even more.

The fact that solar charging uses real-time solar generation data to automatically adjust the charging rate to capture all excess solar energy (i.e. any excess solar generation that is >1.4 kW) means you’re going to maximise your solar self-consumption. 

Using Competitive EV Tariffs

If you’ve invested in solar panels, the hope is that you’ll produce most of your electricity using this system. That’s not always possible, though. Even while solar panels can generate renewable energy on cloudy days, you may still need to supplement your solar-powered energy supply with grid electricity. For this reason, it makes sense for you to seek out the most cost-effective EV tariff, allowing you to continue saving as much as possible on overall electricity consumption. Some suppliers offer competitive tariffs specifically for those with home solar panels and a battery. Others offer what are known as two-rate or dynamic tariffs, both of which enable consumers to make use of lower, off-peak rates. 

Don’t worry either if you’ve yet to get a solar system in place—You can still use renewable energy to power up your EV. Use the data from your smart EV charger to only fuel your car when energy is available from renewable sources, or opt for green tariffs. These see suppliers drawing their electricity from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind farms and will ensure your electric car only runs on clean, green power. 

If you’re ready to take a step towards solar-compatible smart charging at home we can help. Check out our smart EV home chargers and charging installer support

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