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Solar Electric Car Charging

by Peter James Hoare

Can you tell me that if I convert over to an EV I have a honda civic shuttle {estate}, can I charge my car with solar panels as I live in the middle of the med {europe}, and if yes, what would be the best to use?

Hi, Peter!
Of course you can charge your EV with solar panels. I don't know what's available in Europe, so it's hard for me to advise you on specifics, but it's probably as good or better that what's available here in the US. Malta is quite sunny, isn't it, a great place for solar panels (like the man in the video above, just outside Los Angeles). Even the cloudy Northwest where I live is a surprisingly good place for solar panels, believe it or not! It just takes a little longer; )

Just don't put your solar panels on the car, no matter what a good idea it seems to be; set up your charging station at home. You'll be a lot happier with it.


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EV Electricity: To Grid or Not To Grid

by Doc
(Phoenix, AZ)

Ok, I've seen a number of people asking the same question I had; why not just run off a generator instead of batteries similar to diesel/electric locomotives?

All the answers run along the same line, saying that the acceleration and hill loads make this impractical, and recommend using the generators to extend the range of the battery pack.

Why not have a smaller battery pack to add the extra power required for acceleration and hills, but use the generator for the steady cruise? While cruising, any extra power provided by the generator could be diverted into the battery pack.

I realize the opinion of your resident expert is to avoid fuel powered electricity generation, but if the goal is to avoid using the "the grid" for an EV, and extending range, even though you are still using fuel, it would have to be a substantial improvement in fuel consumption over a fuel burning only vehicle, right?

Hi, Doc -

I think this is what Toyota was aiming at with the synergy drive hybrid system in their Prius.

It operates as you say: a smallish battery pack and an electric motor to provide the boost for acceleration and hills, while the gas engine takes over at cruising speed, recharging the battery pack at the same time.

Complex computer control makes all this possible, as it does with the diesel electric locomotives. There's a really interesting discussion of these locomotives over at Wikipedia.

It's clearly a good idea, and maybe the best way to do a hybrid system.

With the Prius, I'm guessing they powered the wheels directly with the gas engine at higher speeds because of the size of the generator needed to provide sufficient electric power for the motor.

Because the Prius already has both systems, electric and gas, moving the wheels...I'm guessing that, if it had been more efficient or effective to use the gas engine as a generator for the electric motor rather than as a gas motor to run the drivetrain directly, they would have done that. They'd already made the commitment to have "all of the above" equipment in the car, why not use it most efficiently?

Now, as for "avoiding the grid"...we don't. On the contrary, we EV'ers LOVE the grid. Why? Because it moves our wheels cheaply. (Up here in the Northwest, it's usually hydroelectric or something pretty green that produces that electricity, too.)

Actually, we'd prefer all those hybrid makers, like Toyota, would let us use the grid by providing a plug for charging those little battery packs. We petitioned. We bootleg-converted our Priuses. They listened, and are now working on that.

We prefer not to generate electricity with fuel if we can avoid it because it's an expensive and dirty way to generate electricity. Convenient, though, yes.

We just want a choice!

All the best,

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