How To Make The Most Of Your Solar Panels To Charge Electric Vehicles

How to make the most of solar panels to charge electric vehicles

Solar energy has grown massively over the last decade in Australia. More recently, electric vehicles (EVs) have taken off thanks to an increase in availability and a decrease in cost. With a need for all businesses to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, using solar panels to charge electric vehicles is a great way to tackle climate change in a cost-effective way within your organisation. 

Learn more in 11 Electric Vehicle Benefits For Organisations You Might Not Know About

To help your organisation take full advantage of these two key renewable energy technologies we’ve put together a guide addressing some frequently asked questions on how to cover the electricity use of your electric vehicles with your own solar power.

The easiest way to charge electric vehicles using your organisation’s solar panels is to install car chargers on the same building or meter as your solar panels and charging during the sunniest part of the day. If the supply of solar electricity generated is sufficient to charge the vehicle(s) and meet other organisation needs, then no grid electricity will be necessary. This means your transport and electricity will be producing no emissions!

This might work for your organisation if your staff have commuting use of the vehicles and they are mostly parked at the office during the day, with a few site visits. Your staff may need a bit of educating to remind them to plug the cars in at the end of their trip until it becomes second nature.  

If your vehicles are being used throughout the day eg. for delivery runs you will need to work out your timing to see if there is a window of daylight time where you can charge your vehicle. CORENA worked with CERES Fair Food to work out how they could do this with their vege box delivery vans

Electric chargers have three levels, with level 1 being the slowest charger and level 3 being the quickest. If you only have a short window in which to charge your car in daylight hours you may need a fast charger (Level 2) which draws more power (but is more expensive). If your car is parked at the office for most of the day a slow charger (Level 1) should be fine. 

How do you know if your cars are using too much power and drawing from the grid? Monitoring! Monitoring like this from CERES Fair Food measures solar production and power consumption. When your cars plug in you will see power consumption go up and you can tell if it is using up all of your excess power or not.

Learn more in How Energy Monitoring Can Reduce Carbon Emissions & Electricity Costs For Non Profits

Even smarter again is a smart charger. Smart chargers only charge your car with the excess solar and dial down charging when there is less excess solar available. 

What if I can’t use solar panels to charge my electric vehicles 100% of the time?

It’s unlikely that you will be able to 100% charge your vehicles from your solar panels. Sometimes you will need to charge in the evening or overnight and clouds and/or other power users in your building may mean your car will require extra power from the grid. 

The good news is even if you do draw from the grid there are still cost and carbon savings. This is because grid electricity in all states is becoming cleaner as more and more renewable energy sources are connected to the grid. 

If you can’t charge during the day the second best time is during an off peak period. A peak period is a time of the day when there is a high demand on the grid. Power is usually more expensive at this time and extra power demand at this time draws more power from non-renewable sources and increases costs for everyone. Peak periods are usually between 3pm-9pm. Most electric cars will have a timer on them that allow you to plug in your car when you get home but charging only starts once the off peak period begins and completes overnight, so your car is all ready to go in the morning! Check your power bill or your energy retailer website to see when your peak period is. If you can switch to a time of use electricity plan which includes cheap power in off peak times this may mean you can save even more money.

How many solar panels are necessary to support an electric vehicle?

Before this question is answered, we need to talk about how we measure electric fuel.

In discussing the distances that petrol-driven cars can travel and their efficiency, we talk of litres per 100 km. This measure refers to the quantity of fuel a car will use, on average, to travel 100km. Electric vehicles have a similar measurement, kilowatt hours per 100 km (kWh per 100 km).

How much energy do currently available electric vehicles require?

Internal combustion engine/petrol-powered (ICE) vehicles have a great deal of variation in how much fuel they use – and so do electric vehicles.

Typically an electric car drives about 5 km on 1 kWh of electricity, provided by its battery. So, a typical Australian driver driving 50 km in a day needs about 10 kWh. The energy for this electricity will need to be replenished by recharging the car’s battery.

3 solar panels have around 1kW of solar capacity and will generate 4kWh of electricity, on average each day, with less in winter, and more in the sunny Australian summer. Going by this, you would need to add 8 solar panels to your roof to roughly cover the power used to charge an electric car that drives about 50km daily.

If your organisation is currently installing solar panels it is a good idea to think about your future electric vehicle charging needs and install a larger system. Murray Mallee Aged Care are currently investigating electric vehicles for their fleet of home visit vehicles and did just that when installing solar panels on their administration office. 

Solar Panels & Electric Vehicles Funding for Non Profits

Apart from applying for grants and rebates, here at CORENA, we can provide free technical advice and zero interest funding to community organisations looking to reduce their emissions and green their energy consumption. We are funded by donations from local community members across Australia. Donations help us fund:

Learn more in 5 Ways CORENA Helps Non Profits Reduce Carbon Emissions & Energy Costs

Interest Free Loans For Non Profits, Community Organisations, Charities, & Social Enterprises

You don’t pay any interest on your CORENA loan, and the quarterly loan repayments are set to be a little less than the savings on your operating costs averaged over a year. This means you are never out of pocket. After your loan is fully repaid, you will reap the full financial benefit of having lower operating costs, with savings able to be diverted to your organisation’s core purpose..

To learn more, check out how to apply for a loan, or register for one of our upcoming Online Q&A Information Sessions.

Online Q&A Information Sessions