Very recently, Electric vehicles have been rapidly gaining popularity as they are an eco-friendly alternative to gasoline driven cars. According to a report by International Energy Agency, the global Electric Vehicle ownership has shown a rapid growth of 54% from 2016 to 2017.
Studies also suggest that, Electric Vehicles (EV), as compared to fossil fuel cars, have considerably lower greenhouse gas emissions that can even be brought down to zero, provided green electricity is used for charging of EVs’.
The access to green electricity is also becoming a reality due to the paradigm shift in the global energy generation landscape. At the world stage, a lot of innovations and investments are happening in this space, and specifically in the solar power generation sector.
The global advisory firm, DNV GL in its Energy Transition Outlook 2018 has reported that 80% of global electricity production will be powered by renewable energy sources (solar energy and wind power).
Off late, tapping the abundantly available solar energy and its application as a power source for Electric Vehicles has become a necessity rather than a mere option for combating the hazards of environmental pollution. One of the most powerful use-cases, in this context, is ‘Solar Powered’ Electric Vehicle Charging Stations. Many stakeholders are already looking at Solar Powered EV Charging as the Next Big Thing!
So, What is the technology, behind the scenes, that is playing the role of an enabler? What are the key benefits of using solar PV panels for powering electric vehicles?
This is our quest for answers to these questions!
Solar Panel charging installations for Electric Vehicles available today can be broadly categorized into:
In this blog, we will talk about the technology behind the off-grid fixed charging installations. At its core, a solar energy charging system converts the photovoltaic energy from the solar panels into DC electrical energy; which is fed to the EV batteries.
Let us look at main components of a solar energy charging system for Electric Vehicles:
The angle of solar panel is one of the crucial factors in deciding the output efficiency of these panels. The other factors being the latitude, longitude and weather conditions.
The solar panels are attached to moveable, motor-controlled solar trackers. Based on the inputs from the microcontrollers, these motor-run trackers move the solar panels axis to receive maximum sunlight any given time in a day.
Additionally, the microcontrollers are programmed to control the motor using a Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) technique to align the panels for maximum power generation.
The Solar Position Algorithm calculates the sun’s position based on the azimuthal and elevation values, based on the time, date and location of Earth. This information is used by the central microcontrollers to control the motors to rotate the panels at specific angles at which they would receive the max. solar radiation.
Maximum Power from solar radiations is inherently non-uniform in nature and varies with temperature and time in a particular day. The DC-DC converter offers an interfacing between the photovoltaic panel and the load to achieve maximum power transfer without loss. The MPPT controller is connected to the output of the solar PV panel.
In a typical photovoltaic generating systems such as the solar EV charging system, an MPPT can be enabled ( within the microcontroller) through :
The MPPT controller takes in higher voltage DC output from panels, and evaluates the best possible value of power from the panel to charge the battery and converts the power into optimized voltage levels to get maximum Ampere values.
At this stage, we are witnessing the onset of widespread installations of Solar Powered Charging Stations across various cities of the world. Reasons for this growth in numbers are many. Let us look at some of the tangible benefits:
Over the past few years, many government bodies, automotive manufactures and other industry stakeholders have come forward to explore the new opportunities offered by Combining Solar and Electric Vehicle Charging.
Together they aim to not only encourage wide usage of EVS and solar PV Panels, but also find a sustainable alternative to the world’s fast existing reserve of fossil fuels.
Let us have a glimpse of some of them:
Global trends indicate that both the EV and Solar industry has been witnessing an exponential growth over the recent past. For example, the US has approximately 250,000 EVs and about 500,000 solar rooftops, and both industries are still growing exponentially. While challenges exist in the way for the solar energy based electric vehicle charging systems to become a mainstream option, government policymakers and auto-manufacturers are exploring the feasibilities to address them.
Thus, the combination of Solar Energy and EV is mutually beneficial one wherein each one can open up new avenue of growth for the other, while also helping in reducing the eco footprint, quite significantly. Additionally, the PV-EV synergy is expected to open up new windows of business opportunities in the near future throughout the value chain while keeping up the clean energy commitment.
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