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Power your car and save money

Electric vehicles (EV) will be the only choice for motorists buying new when we hit the Government’s Green Revolution target date in 2030. But as many of those who already drive electric cars will tell you, there can be a big price to pay to power your car every day, and it isn’t only about cash.

There are, however, ways to reduce the cost of the electricity needed to recharge your EV’s battery, such as charging at night on a low tariff. But, what of the environmental cost of burning all those fossil fuels to generate the electricity in the first place, surely that defeats the object?

The good news is that there are ways to combat this, and to save yourself a pretty penny in the mean time.

Go Solar

The alternative to plugging your car into the grid is to go off-grid, and the easiest way to do this is by installing solar panels.

An average solar panel will generate 1 kWh of energy per day, and an average car will require between eight and twelve panels to provide a full charge per day on average across a typical year. 

But of course, not many cars, batteries, or days, are average. To figure out exactly how many panels your specific car needs will therefore require some investigation. You’ll need to know how many miles per day you drive, what capacity the car battery has, and what specification of solar panel you are considering.

Getting back to those 8-12 panels for an ‘average’ car, it is quickly obvious that many households won’t have room for that many panels let alone that many dedicated solely to charging the car. However that number of panels is for a fully charged battery every day, and most households wouldn’t use their entire battery’s worth of energy every day. In fact, the average household in the UK only travels 11.4miles per day so they could easily go a week or more without needing to charge their car. 

It seems likely therefore that most households would only need a quarter of that number of panels at most. A solar panel measures roughly 1.6 sqm (but there are various sizes on the market) so two to three panels will need up to 5 sqm of space. 

Finding that amount of space on a roof to install panels is much more likely. Plus there are other options for those who can’t, including solar powered car ports.

Solar Powered Car Ports

If you have a shed, a garage, an existing car port or a driveway where you could potentially build one, then you have the possibility of installing a solar powered car port.

Depending on which option you would be considering, it is possible to install solar panels in this way as part of permitted development. Policies differ between Local Councils so to be one hundred per cent sure you would need to check with the planning department.  Theoretically speaking, however, Council’s should be supportive of applications which enable households to take advantage of green energy.

Methods of installation also vary. If you have an existing building, or plan to build something, then you can incorporate panels into these structures just as you would onto any other type of building. You can source DIY installations but the most productive and efficient will be done by professionals. 

Alternatively, you can buy solar powered car ports as all-in-one structures. They tend to be futuristic in appearance and so won’t suit all properties or tastes and may not pass muster with the Council if you do need planning permission. But they are worth checking out. They can be very cost effective and include the panels, car port structure and charging socket in one go. 

Remember to invert

If you decide to go solar for your car charging bear in mind you will need a solar energy compatible EV charger. Most are not currently set up for this, but you can buy an inverter to make your existing charger work if needed.

Alternatively, you may already have a solar compatible charger – they tend to be smart chargers but to be completely sure check with the manufacturer. 

The app that you use with your charger will enable you to track how much electricity is being produced by your panels, and how efficiently your car battery is being charged. On duller days you may not generate enough energy to meet your needs and it’s best to be aware of this before you jump in the car to do a long journey.  The fix in this scenario is to ensure that your solar panel charging system can work alongside your home electricity supply so that the grid can take the strain if necessary.

For even more efficiency, albeit at some considerable cost at the moment whilst prices are high, there is always the option of installing an external battery with your solar system so that you can store energy on particularly productive days when your car battery is already full.

Alternatives if you don’t have space for solar panels

If you don’t have roof space or any other areas where you can mount solar panels, don’t despair. There are other options which mean you can power your EV without burning fossil fuels to do so.

The first choice is to opt for a green energy tariff from your energy supplier. The only draw back with these is the cost, and this can be particularly prohibitive at the moment.

Another choice would be to use a clever tool created by the WWF along with the National Grid and various other partners, which uses a whole bunch of live data to calculate when the cleanest and dirtiest times on any given day are to use electricity.  It works a bit like a weather forecast and you can view up to three days in advance to see what times of the day will be best for using electricity. Just ‘dial in’ and select the best time to power up your car.

And lastly you can also make use of the various green incentive charging schemes and apps that are out there. For example, EV.charge is an app which will give you feedback on the greenest time of day to charge your vehicle, and it will automatically schedule these charging times for you. 

In return not only is your car charged using greener energy, but you can also benefit from rewards that EV.charge offers, from Amazon gift cards to Carbon Credits.

June 2023