How to Add Solar to an Electric Car

    • 1). Solar panels are added directly to a roof of an EV. Although conventional cars have limited space to fix enough panels to produce a lot of power, they can be used in tandem with the battery packs. For example, Toyota's 2010 Prius Hybrid has an optional solar panel on its roof, enabling it to power the car's ventilation system without help from its engine. While the Prius will continue to use electricity from the grid for its main batteries, the solar panel will be used to maintain auxiliary systems. This can generate as much as 1,300 watt-hours a day, enough to give your solar Prius a solar-power range of 5 to 8 miles. Coupled with the nickel-metal hydride battery, you're looking at an all-electric range of up to 20 miles, or about 29 percent of your needs.

    • 2). Solar panels are fitted on top of residential garages or at charging stations. A practical example is installing six 200-watt photovoltaic cells, measuring about 3 feet by 5 feet each and weighing a total of 240 pounds, on top of a bus kiosk. With approximately 1,100 hours of sunlight per year, this installation would yield about 1,320 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. Factor in an EV that can travel 120 miles between charges, you will consume about 3,100 kilowatts of electricity if the car is driven 5,600 miles per year. This means the solar panels will offset 43 percent of the car's energy use.

    • 3). Use fuel cell technology. A new innovation and the future of all EVs is a zero-emissions vehicle that doesn't use an oil-based (gasoline or diesel) fuel or need to be plugged into an electrical outlet. The limited-production Honda FCX Clarity is one of the first on-the-road fuel-cell vehicles. The fuel cell generates electricity in a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. Its only byproduct is pure water. The fuel-cell stack in the FCX Clarity is small enough to fit between the driver and front passenger (under the armrest), and its output is 100 kilowatts. The hydrogen fuel tank is situated behind the rear seat and under it is a lithium-ion storage battery. An electric motor (136 horsepower) drives the front wheels. Honda has constructed a refueling station at its research center in California that uses electrical energy from solar panels to extract hydrogen from water.

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