Everything You Need to Know About Charging an EV with Solar Panels

Running our cars on sunshine can save us at the pump and at home

As the price of gasoline approaches historic highs, so has the interest in electric vehicles. Americans are flocking to dealerships, enduring hours-long waits to test drive models, and learning the caveats of EV tax credits, before selecting their perfect zero-emission vehicle. It’s an upfront investment, but one that people are making sooner than planned, as they discover what’s happening in the market.

Electric vehicles are having a moment. But it’s not a trend. Saving thousands of dollars on gasoline each year and reducing your carbon impact doesn’t go out of style.

The end of 2021 saw a shift in vehicle purchase behavior. During the last quarter, EV sales jumped 11% compared to the third quarter, while sales of gas-powered vehicles fell 1.3%.* That’s a huge leap for EVs and helped drive their share of total vehicle sales from 4% in 2020 to 6% in 2021. There’s no question that EVs are here to stay — they’ve only just started revving up their non-combustible engines.

Why are People Buying More Electric Vehicles in 2022?

While the price of fuel inspired more Americans to buy EVs in early 2022, gas prices aren’t the sole motivator. The industry research group AutoPacific surveys consumers’ purchase intent. They found that, while 83% of those who planned to buy an EV were motivated by the belief that “charging is cheaper than fueling,” a handful of other factors also fueled the demand, including:*

  • Increased awareness of EVs
  • More variety of vehicle brands and nameplates
  • Greater price ranges now available
  • Improved charging infrastructure
  • Increased EV range
  • Desire to become more eco-friendly

By the end of 2022, EV sales in the U.S. to are expected to reach 700,000, the industry group reveals, with strong increases over the next six years. Electric vehicles aren’t just gaining traction across the nation, they’re starting to take over. As more models become available, from the Ford Mustang Mach-E to the Volkswagen ID.4, EVs are approaching an inflection point where they’re moving from early adopters into the mainstream market.




Why Home Charging is Crucial

As they decrease in price and increase in availability, EVs are becoming more accessible to the average consumer. Surely, you’ve seen more charging stations around where you live, from recreation areas to entertainment locations. And if you don’t own an EV, you might think that public charging is where a majority of recharging takes place – but you’d be mistaken.

In reality, 80% of EV charging is done at home, usually overnight or while a vehicle is parked during the workday.* This means having the right infrastructure, such as a permanent home charging station, is crucial.

Different Types of Home EV Chargers Explained

There are a few different types of EV home charging.

Level 1
Charger The first is Level 1 charging, where EV owners plug their zero-emission vehicle into a standard 110-volt or 120-volt outlet the garage. With this option, most drivers need between 11 and 20 hours* (some require upwards of 30 hours) to recharge a fully depleted battery using the standard three-prong plug. And the amount of electricity being drawn from the grid is significant.

Level 2
Charger Level 2 EV chargers are the gold standard for home charging. They require a 240-volt outlet, the same as your electric clothes dryer, paired with a 40-amp circuit. Level 2 EV chargers are faster and more reliable compared to Level 1. They can charge your EV in four or five hours, and add about 25 miles of range per hour of charging.*

Level 3
Charger One more type, Level 3 chargers, are designed for rapid charging at commercial locations. Instead of using alternating current (AC) that comes from the grid — the source that home chargers use — Level 3 superchargers use direct current (DC) that can recharge an EV in 15 minutes.*

The Perfect Pair: EV Charger and Home Solar Panels

When charging an EV at home, you’re pulling an electrical current from the grid to deliver electricity to your vehicle and recharge its lithium-ion battery. The cost of charging an EV at home depends on a number of variables, including your price of electricity, the number of miles you drive, and your particular EV model.

Your utility may have a tier system, where the more electricity you use, the higher price per kilowatt hour (kWh) you pay. This means the more electricity you use to charge your clean vehicle, the more you’ll have to pay for grid-tied power. Maybe your utility enforces time-of-use (TOU) rates, where you’ll pay higher rates during peak demand. In this case, you’ll pay more for electricity when everyone else is using the grid — such as in the evenings — than you would during the day or at night. These costs can add up quickly and leave you paying a hefty monthly sum to charge your zero-emission vehicle — not what you intended when you drove off the dealership lot.

But there’s a bright solution. Enter, solar energy.

It doesn’t make economic sense to install a few solar panels just to power your electric vehicle. But, if you want to offset your household’s electricity consumption and charge your EV simultaneously, then home solar is an ideal option. But what does it take to charge an EV at home? How many solar panels do you need to charge your electric vehicle overnight? Let’s dive in.




How Much Can I Save By Charging an EV with Solar Panels?

Keep in mind that there are many considerations when pairing an EV charger with solar panels — each household is unique. Therefore, consider these figures a starting point that you can use to conduct your own research and decide what arrangement works best for you.

At Sunnova, here’s what we determined:*

A Level 2 charger (220 volts) can use up to 10 kilowatts (kW) of electricity to charge an EV. The fastest Level 2 charger can refill an EV battery for a full 250-mile range in six hours. If you already have solar panels on your home, your system doesn’t take into account the additional electricity needed to charge an EV. So, whether you’re installing new or adding on, to cover the additional 10 kW of power the fastest way possible, you’d want to add roughly 26 panels (which would cover about 9.5kW of electricity). If you’re fine with waiting 12 hours to fully recharge your EV, you can do so with 5kW of solar — about 13 panels. Understand that this number will vary based on the size and efficiency of your chosen panels, the amount of direct sunlight they get each day, what kind of climate you live in, and more.

Considering the average cost of solar at $3.50 per watt, your 5kW system would cost about $17,500 before incentives. If you own your solar system, you can take advantage of the federal solar tax credit and bring your cost down to around $13,050 (not including any additional state rebates or incentives).

If that sounds steep, consider that over 25 years, the average American may spend as much as $60,000 on gasoline. Charging your EV with electricity from the power grid will set you back an estimated $21,000 over that timeframe and reduce your fuel costs by up to 65%. But, when you charge your EV with solar panels, you can save that $21,000 and run your zero-emission vehicle on sunshine.

Do I Need a Solar Battery?

Solar panels only produce power in real time while the sun is shining, which means that for a home solar system with no battery storage, you must use the power your panels produce immediately — or lose it. In that case, you could only charge your EV during the day — when your system is actually generating power. If you want to save the energy your solar system produces and use it later on, you’ll need to install battery storage. Aside from powering your home and letting you charge your EV while the sun isn’t shining, a solar battery can also power your home with stored solar energy during outages.

“Wait,” you might think, “these costs are adding up fast.” Yes and no. Consider the big picture. An investment in your energy future is exactly that — an investment. You’re paying today for energy resiliency tomorrow. You’re choosing to lock in your solar electricity costs for the next 25 years, forget about the skyrocketing cost of gasoline, and keep your power on during outages.

When solar plus battery storage is paired with EV charging, you can recharge your car’s battery when the grid is down, keep your refrigerator and heat or AC running, stay connected to the internet, and keep your well pump working if you’re on well water.

Join the Energy Revolution With Solar Plus Storage and EV Charging

The same savvy consumers who are paying attention to how the EV market is trending are the same ones changing the way we produce and consume energy in the U.S.

By installing solar with battery storage and running your car on sunshine, you’re declaring your energy independence, slashing your electricity costs, disregarding the price of gasoline, and helping future generations breathe more easily. Click here to learn how the sun can work for you.