Xebra Zero as Solar Powered Car?

Okay, I know I'm not the only one out there with fantasies about driving from Seattle to Ft. Lauderdale in a solar powered car, filling the tank with nothing but the sunshine beaming down on the roof.

  • All the while you're zipping down the road, your batteries are recharging for FREE.
  • All the time you're at the office and your Xebra is sitting out in the parking lot, your batteries are recharging for FREE.

No more panhandling with an extension cord and a smile!

So when Zap came out with the Xebra Zero (and the solar PK; ) with the solar panel on the roof, I was all atwitter. Until I started reading about solar energy, and started thinking about exactly HOW MUCH sunshine it would take to recharge the Xebra's batteries.

Just how much electricity does the Zero produce in a day?


It takes 4.75 kwh to recharge the Xebra's battery.

In Southern California there is an average of 5.5 hours of intense sunlight per day. Maybe your neighborhood gets more, maybe less; Los Angeles, compared to the rest of the US, gets quite a bit of sun.

Anyway, the solar panel on top of the Zap Xebra gathers 150 watts (or .150 kw); so on an average day in the sunny climate of Los Angeles, your Xebra Zero will gather .150 X 5.5 kwh of solar energy, or .825 kwh... ...which means, under ideal circumstances, you can use your rooftop charger to replace 17% of the charge, which would extend your range by about 5 miles.

It's not just a gimmick, either. Hymotion (the Canadian plug in hybrid kit company), in cooperation with Solera Sustainable Energies and Veridian Corporation, demonstrated the ability to extend a converted Prius' range by 15km on a sunny day by adding a solar panel to the roof.

Should your solar panels stay home?

solar panels

The Xebra Zero website does mention that the solar panel CAN be used as a stationary unit, gathering solar energy at your house and recharging your Xebra when you get home. The advantages of this would be:

  • you can place the solar panel at the precise angle that would maximize your sun-gathering ability;
  • you can take the weight and drag off your Xebra;
  • you could get several additional solar panels rather than being limited to the rooftop area of the Xebra;
  • solar panels don't appreciate all the jostling around, generally, and the stationary ones work better than the mobile ones.

Rolling advertisement for fossil-fuel-free transportation

pink xebra zero

But the one thing your rooftop solar panel CAN do that your garage-top solar panel CANNOT...

...is get people thinking about solar-powered transportation while you innocently drive around, minding your business.

If your neighbor is feeling VIOLATED at the gas station these days - and who isn't? - the sight of a solar panel on the roof of your little Xebra will start to ferment in the back of her mind like sauerkraut.

It won't be long before the two of you have matching lipstick pink Xebras and are calling the neighborhood businesses and schools and asking them to install plug-in spaces (solar or not) in the parking lots. But all change starts with vision...

...and that rooftop solar panel might just be the vision!