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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Does anyone sell a car port that would serve as a standalone charging station for an electric car? My employer isn't likely to install charging stations anytime soon, but I thought if I could put a car port with solar panels on the roof in one of the parking spaces I could charge my car while I'm at work. I live in an area that receives plenty of sunlight for most of the year. For every day that it is rainy and overcast in Seattle, it's sunny in Yakima. I was thinking about how one might be built but I'm not sure if I could do it. I don't have the depth of knowledge with electricity and wiring and such to do it properly. I wonder if one could connect a surplus Volt battery pack from a totaled Volt and use it to store the electricity so that it could be rapidly transferred to the car parked in the car port. I'm just wondering aloud.
 

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Yes, but they're crazy expensive -- $40,000 to $55,000 for this model, for instance. The trouble is that solar panels don't generate enough electricity to provide more than a trickle of power, at least not in the sort of space you'd want to dedicate to one car. Thus, to do the job you need to add batteries, thus enabling the charge station's batteries to charge over a whole day (or more) and give that power back at normal car-charging rates.

Of course, if your commute is just a couple of miles, you might be able to get by with a smaller set of solar panels, so as to regenerate just that short distance's worth of electricity consumed.
 

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I'm not sure of the technical details of a project like that, but I see some big problems: 1) you probably would not have enough surface area unless the structure covered multiple parking spaces, 2) it would be ridiculously expensive compared to the benefit you would receive, and 3) you would be investing your own money making improvements to someone else's property and you would probably not end up with ownership rights over the installation. You would essentially be making a donation to the property owner. That might not even be your employer. If your employer relocates or you change employers, you would lose access to it.
 

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3) you would be investing your own money making improvements to someone else's property and you would probably not end up with ownership rights over the installation. You would essentially be making a donation to the property owner. That might not even be your employer.
The one to which I linked is portable (by a certain definition) -- it's brought in on a truck, dropped where you want it like a dumpster, and the truck leaves. It can be removed as easily. Of course, if somebody did want to buy one and leave it at an employer's site, there'd probably have to be some sort of paperwork signed to avoid legal disputes in the future. This particular model is crazy expensive, though. To be sure, it's an interesting concept, and might become cost-effective in the future, if and when battery prices drop by an order of magnitude, but for now it's a niche product at best.
 

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The large problem with grabbing power from solar is it all depends on the sun unless you have a storage bank of batteries. Most successful solar users have a grid-tie agreement with the utility which runs the meter "backward" when excess solar power is available and then runs the meter forward when a demand is greater than the solar output. The ESEV tend to want to run at a fixed rate of charge and solar is definitely not a fixed rate output.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
The solar panels aren't terribly expensive. It's the battery to store the power that would be the issue. I only have a 6 mile commute so I wouldn't be looking for a full charge but it'd be nice if I could top up while I'm at work, but I'm not going to pay twice as much as I paid for the car to do it. I just thought that perhaps someone had already figured out a a reasonable way to do it.
 

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The problem with a solar carport is you're paying for the solar, AND for a carport. If you're going to build a carport anyway, then adding solar makes sense. But building a carport to get solar doesn't.
 

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The solar panels aren't terribly expensive. It's the battery to store the power that would be the issue. I only have a 6 mile commute so I wouldn't be looking for a full charge but it'd be nice if I could top up while I'm at work, but I'm not going to pay twice as much as I paid for the car to do it. I just thought that perhaps someone had already figured out a a reasonable way to do it.
A Volt should be able to easily do a 12mi round trip back to the home charger. I don't get the point. Gasoline, if needed, would be WAY cheaper.
 

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The advantage of the solar carport seems to focus around not needing permits, wiring, etc. I could see this if any of that would be cost prohibitive or a huge PITA but... I'm not sure where that would be? On a burial ground? In an old minefield? The Korean DMZ? I'm really at a loss for who their target audience is. Maybe it's just people that make bad decisions.

Around here you could probably get a three car garage with chargers, solar and utility hookups for what those things sell for.
 

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Stay Calm! You are driving a Volt. Keep requesting your employer to provide a charging station, or at least a 120V plug point. Tell them about incentives. Offer to pay, say, $30 every month, or bring donuts to work every Friday :)
 

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I only have a 6 mile commute so I wouldn't be looking for a full charge but it'd be nice if I could top up while I'm at work
Since your 12-mile round-trip commute is well within the range of a Volt on electricity, even on a cold day, I'd say you'd probably do better looking into putting solar panels on your house's roof. (This assumes that you own a single-family house, of course, and that its roof gets significant amounts of sunlight.) That'll get you more area for solar panels, hence more electricity generated. Granted, you and your car will be at work for much of the period the panels are pumping out electricity, but if there's excess after your refrigerator and other always-on gadgets consume their fill, you can sell it to your local utility and then buy power when the sun goes down. Your profile says you're in Washington state, which I understand gets most of its electricity from hydroelectric, so it's low-carbon power either way. Adding solar (or not) looks like a mainly economic decision for you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
My plan was FAR less ambitious than the examples linked to here. I'm talking DIY type setup. I could make a structrure using 80/20 members, put some solar panels from Harbor freight on top. I think I'd be under $1000. The problem is that the panels alone won't really do much dynamically. They'd need to be paired with some type of storage to be useful. I can easily make the trip to work and back. I just like to have the option to recharge at work in case I need to go somewhere else after work, or during work.
 

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My plan was FAR less ambitious than the examples linked to here. I'm talking DIY type setup. I could make a structrure using 80/20 members, put some solar panels from Harbor freight on top. I think I'd be under $1000. The problem is that the panels alone won't really do much dynamically. They'd need to be paired with some type of storage to be useful. I can easily make the trip to work and back. I just like to have the option to recharge at work in case I need to go somewhere else after work, or during work.
You won't make it for that price, I guarantee. 8 amps X 120v = 960 watts. The BIGGEST panel set Harbor Freight sells is (optimistically) rated 45 watts. So you'll need about 25 of those sets, 75 panels total, to keep up with even the slowest EVSE settings, or about $4500 in Harbor Freight panels.
 

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You won't make it for that price, I guarantee. 8 amps X 120v = 960 watts. The BIGGEST panel set Harbor Freight sells is (optimistically) rated 45 watts. So you'll need about 25 of those sets, 75 panels total, to keep up with even the slowest EVSE settings, or about $4500 in Harbor Freight panels.
The "45 Watt" panel consists of 3 "15 watt" panels and a plastic frame and a cheapo charge controller for a 12V battery. BTDT, absolute crap.

I found a 100 Watt panel that is exactly the same size as two of the HF panels that really does put out 100 Watts. Replacing the HF panels in pairs as they fail, mostly from bad solder joints at the panel itself. Had so many of the charge controllers fail that that is all I have to say about that...

My system is 12V for my house trailer, so it has some deep cycle 12V batteries as storage, these panels:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00HTSVDAM/ref=ox_sc_act_title_2?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=A5KU5HDAPDC75

and this charge controller, which I am upgrading to from the 30 amp version:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/142008751619?_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649&ssPageName=STRK:MEBIDX:IT

Also has a couple of inverters, one that supplies 120V AC for the microwave oven and a smaller grid tie that converts the solar directly to 120V AC to get some $$ back when it's not needed for charging the batteries. Once all the HF panels are replaced with the 100 Watt panels I will need to upgrade that inverter to handle the increased current.

I did plan on keeping a pair of the HF panels on the roof as a winter time battery keep-alive setup.
 
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