Around the world, homes, businesses, and entire communities are increasingly turning to clean and renewable solar power. Rooftop installations and mega photovoltaic (PV) farms are the most visible aspects of this growing movement. But solar is now powering everything from handheld calculators to road signs to camping gear. It’s even being used in the automotive industry, with solar-powered battery chargers becoming a mainstream technology.
This article explores some of the factors “driving” this trend. It also outlines some environmental limitations of investing in sustainable technologies like solar chargers for car batteries. As an eco-conscious consumer, you must understand the entire product lifecycle – including what happens once your charger stops working.
What Is a Solar Powered Car Battery Charger?
Most gas-guzzling cars come with 12 V batteries used to start the ignition. When that battery dies (in about 3 to 5 years), you typically need a “jumpstart” until you can get to the closest auto shop to purchase a new battery or recharge the depleted one.
Some cars use the kinetic energy from braking to recharge the batteries. This regenerative braking helps extend the battery’s lifetime – or at least delay how soon you need to charge it back up.
Using a standalone solar charger is another way to get more life out of your car’s battery. You connect a dedicated PV panel to the positive and negative terminals of the battery (just as you would when using another vehicle to jumpstart your own). A handful of solar panel car battery charger options work directly through the vehicle’s cigarette charger.
Either way, you’re using sunshine to charge the car storage battery.
What Are the Benefits of Solar Car Battery Chargers?
The benefits of having a portable charger are obvious if you’ve ever had to call roadside assistance because of a dead car battery. If there’s sunshine, you can start your vehicle. In addition to peace of mind, using a solar charger for your car battery allows you to avoid the cost and time of bringing in a professional auto mechanic.
However, there are other benefits as well.
1. Low Maintenance
Solar chargers for car batteries are a low-cost solution with virtually zero maintenance requirements. The PV panels themselves are very resilient, with no moving parts. And because emergency charging is relatively rare, there’s even less wear and tear.
Whereas most consumer electronics only carry 1 or 2 years of warranty protection, a standard solar car battery maintainer comes with up to 5 years of coverage.
2. Prolonged Battery Life
Solar-powered car chargers allow you to keep the battery in your vehicle longer – without having to visit the auto shop for replacements or top-ups.
Most mechanics use grid electricity or petrol to recharge depleted car batteries. But with a solar battery charger, you’re now using sunshine to perform the same work. And this is more environmentally friendly.
In addition to a smaller carbon footprint, solar panel car battery chargers also have relatively small physical prints. These portable solutions can fit into any trunk, with some compact enough to fit in glove compartments. As a result, solar battery chargers are something you can buy, store away, and not think about until you need it.
However, there are some downsides.
Limitations of Using a Solar Car Battery Charger (vs. a Regular Charger)
Solar car chargers are portable, reliable, and eco-friendly. But they’re not without their drawbacks:
- There must be sunshine for the technology to work. And this isn’t very helpful if you’re stuck on the road at night or during a rainstorm – which is precisely when car trouble crops typically up.
- Standard solar car battery maintainers work as “trickle chargers” that pump out a very low amperage. This makes them better for maintaining batteries than for reviving truly dead ones.
- Most solar car storage battery solutions lack voltage regulators, meaning there’s no way to control the power flow. Because some monitoring is required, solar battery chargers are not indeed “set-it-and-forget-it” like traditional rooftop PV installations are.
- Charging takes time, with many solutions needing at least 5 or 6 hours of direct sunshine for a full charge. Fortunately, a partial payment is usually enough to get back home. You can calculate how long your battery will take to charge with this free online tool from Footprint Hero.
Finally, solar-powered battery charging isn’t always as green as you might think.
Keep reading to understand why.
The Dark Side of Driving on Sunshine
Most solar battery chargers retail for under $100, making them a relatively affordable consumer item (especially among eco-conscious shoppers). However, their growing popularity is creating a new environmental challenge – i.e., what to do with chargers once they break or reach the ends of their warranties.
It’s often cheaper, easier, and faster to buy a replacement charger and toss out the old one. But this merely adds to the electronic waste we continue to create every time we throw away broken toasters, phones, and computers.
Worse still, there aren’t many recycling options for all the plastics and precious metals that go into solar car battery chargers. The same is technically accurate for rooftop PV panels. But they last for decades and pay for themselves financially and environmentally – many times over. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the average energy payback of a standard rooftop PV panel is about four years – assuming daily use. It’s unlikely your solar car battery charger will ever break even environmentally, given how infrequently you’ll use it.
One obvious way to reduce unnecessary waste is to repair broken solar chargers rather than replace them. However, this is easier said than done since there isn’t a ready market for these fixes. Many homeowners struggle to find service teams who can repair their rooftop PV panels. Finding specialized technicians for solar car chargers is more challenging.
Or at least it used to be.
How We Make Green Technologies Greener
Our intelligent matching platform instantly connects you with qualified repair technicians in your area to troubleshoot whatever solar-related issues you might be facing:
- We start the process by carefully analyzing your solar asset’s technology, age, and location to create a unique DNA profile for your project.
- We then use this DNA to match you with local technicians with the skills and expertise to repair or upgrade the malfunctioning components.
Although we designed our AI-powered profiling and matching algorithm to help large-scale PV project developers isolate and repair broken parts in their facilities, this technology can be used for any PV project of any size – including solar battery chargers.
If the goal is to reduce your carbon footprint and leave a better planet for future generations, you must factor in the entire lifecycle of every product you buy. This includes “green” technologies as they increasingly spread into the consumer market. Fixing and maintaining solar battery chargers is more sustainable than replacing or discarding them.
To learn more, get started today.