Solar Panel Car Charging UK – How Does It Work?

Last updated: January 20, 2024

Are you considering taking advantage of your solar panels to charge your car? Here we cover the basic principles, so you can find out how to start saving even more on your energy bills.

You don’t have to plug your car into power outlets if you have a solar charger in your vehicle.

It converts the energy from the sun into electricity which can also store in the battery.

While the solar chargers give you the liberty of not being bound by the charging outlets, we need to see if they are really worth buying in terms of power and longevity. 

How do solar chargers work? 

As mentioned, solar chargers use the sun as a means of energy to convert into electricity.

It works almost the same way as solar energy is used in homes and other buildings via photovoltaic solar panels.

A solar car charger converts light energy into a DC current. The photovoltaic panels used in solar car battery chargers are small and can only give an output of 1500 mA.

Since solar car chargers obtain energy from the sun, they need light to function.

Although they are capable to work in low light or cloudy weather, they are likely to give a lower output i.e 500 mA.

All you need to do is to place the solar panel inside the car or keep it near the garage window (to absorb the light) while keeping it connected to the battery.

There are two types of solar car battery chargers available in the market.

Quick help guides:

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There are ones that can connect directly to the charger while others use a cigarette lighter/ power socket to supply power to the battery.

You need to have a 12v socket if you want to keep the panel and wiring inside the car. The  12 v socket should stay live even after the ignition is switched off. 

Here is an insightful video that shows you a working example of a solar battery storage system that includes car charging capability:

Advantages of Solar Car Chargers

  1. Greener way of charging your vehicle:

Charging your vehicle with a solar charger is eco-friendly.

This means that you can charge your vehicle without feeling the guilt of adding a carbon footprint to your household.

       2.  Inexpensive:

Although the prices of car solar chargers hugely vary depending on their performance, a quick google search shows that they are available for as less as £10. 

Moreover, you will not be using your electricity to charge your vehicle. The solar charger will use solar energy to produce electricity to charge your vehicle which is absolutely free.

        3. Helps maintain the charge:

Car solar battery chargers work great to maintain an electric car’s battery.

It will save you from the worry of the battery being drained out when you are away or from the distress of finding an electric charging station when you find your battery dead.

         4. Works great as a trickle charger: 

Trickle chargers help to refresh the car battery at low amperage which means that the battery can be left on its own for a long time without being at the risk of overcharging.

Car solar chargers can work great as trickle chargers as they can maintain an electric car’s battery.

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Disadvantages of Car Solar Chargers

Renewable energy sources, whether for buildings or cars, have many limitations to date.

They are less efficient, costly and complicated in many cases.

Before jumping into the decision of buying solar chargers, it’s better to look into the cons it has to save yourself from surprises later on. 

  1. Reliance on the sun

In a country like the UK where the weather stays cold and cloudy most part of the year, the reliance on solar energy alternatives is still a challenge.

The amount of power being extracted from the sun is vastly reduced in dark and cloudy weather which makes this technology restrictive in countries like the UK.

  1. Unable to produce enough energy: 

Most electric cars are big and require a lot of energy to function. While standard chargers come with multiple amperage settings, solar battery chargers put out a very small amount of current.

This is the reason that they can be used to revive or maintain a battery rather than as a sole source of energy for the vehicle.

3. Takes a long time to charge

Solar car chargers take a long time to fully charge and the situation gets worst on a cloudy day when it takes even longer.

On the other hand, the usage time it gives is far less than the time it takes in charge.

For example, a charge from an electric power outlet can give you more usage time than the charge of a solar battery charger.

4. Solar chargers don’t include voltage regulators

Unlike float-monitoring trickle chargers, most solar chargers don’t have a voltage regulator to modify or shut off the power flow.

That means you cannot leave the charger on its own after you set rather you have to monitor it throughout the charging process.

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Can Car Solar Chargers replace traditional chargers?

The answer is a straightforward No. Although the solar chargers are cheap and provide a great deal of convenience, they are not capable enough to replace the outlet chargers.

As mentioned above solar chargers have limitations in terms of weather and power output which makes them a temporary or ‘as need’ option rather than a sole source of charging.

What are the best brands in car solar charges?

There are different brands available in the market that are offering car solar chargers.

We have tried to pick the top three depending on their convenience, price and performance. 

Photonic Universe Panel

Photonic Universe 10 W solar trickle charging offers good performance at a great price.

The only downside of this charger is that it has to be fixed outside the vehicle or the building.

AA Car Battery Solar Charger 

We have picked AA solar battery charger because it is just £26 and gives 2.4 kW output.

It comes with an OBD plug attachment which makes it easier to install in a car that doesn’t have 12v socket.

Optimate Solar 20V

Optimate comes with a huge price tag of £140 but claims to offer some promising features. Although large in size, it can give an output of 20 kW.

Also, it incorporates some clever technology that monitors the state of the battery and ensures the appropriate charging top-up when required.