How many solar panels does it take to power an electric car

Here’s how it works out for us. In the first two years of EV ownership, we have averaged 4,000 miles per year. Our Nissan Leaf gets an average of 4.3 miles per kWh. Each of the solar panels we installed generates 360 kWhs annually. Here is the calculation:

4000 miles per year ÷ 4.3 kWh/mile = 930 kWhs needed to power our vehicle per year

930 kWhs ÷ 360 kWh/panel = 2.5 panels needed to provide 930 kWhs per year

Obviously, you would want to round up to the next full panel in this situation. The little bit of extra output will give some room to increase your solar-powered driving distance as well as accommodate an acceptable margin of error. Also, solar output will decline by about 0.8% each year as panels age and car batteries will lose a bit of efficiency over time, just as internal combustion vehicles decline in efficiency as they age.

What if you don’t have solar panels for your electric vehicle? It’s still cheaper and less polluting to drive an EV than a fossil fuel burner, even if you purchase electricity from the grid. To compare for yourself, see the USDOE’s Cost Comparison tool. So don’t let that stop you from transitioning away from internal combustion vehicles. But if you’re planning to install solar panels, consider adding sufficient panels for your daily transportation needs, and take a giant step towards a more economical zero energy, zero carbon life.

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