Solar Panels on a Tesla

Electric cars and solar panels seem like a match made in heaven: free, clean power as long as the sun shines. A self reliant, solar car that’s not dependent on the power grid could recharge sustainably from anywhere you dare to venture.

So, have you ever wondered about bolting solar panels on your Tesla? And why don’t all electric cars come equipped with solar panels for a sleek charge-on-the-go solution? In fact, with improving solar technology and clever ground-up engineering, a few self-charging solar cars are just at the point of coming to market. In this video we’ll delve into the practicalities of solar power for vehicles and have a look at some of the early adopters of this emerging technology.

In 2017, Elon Musk suggested that Tesla would offer optional solar tiles on the roof of the model 3, but later retracted the statement. This was Elon Musk’s idea in 2017 – that car roofs are small and inefficiently angled platforms for viable solar installations, and charging from a home solar installation made more sense. You could even charge at night on stored solar and cheaper off peak electricity. However, Elon might have changed his mind, confirming that the Cybertruck will offer a solar roof option on the truck’s bed.

To understand if a solar car could really work, we need to find out how much solar energy the surface of a car can capture, and how much range that energy will provide under realistic driving conditions.

So let’s take a sedan the size of a Tesla Model S, almost 5 m long and 2 m wide, and put a totally impractical, hypothetical array of solar cells covering the whole plan-view rectangular area of 10 square meters.

When it comes down to it, solar vehicles are all about efficiency. It’s a matter of energy to weight. A practical solar car would really need to be designed from the ground up with reduced weight and low aerodynamic drag, to create a vehicle with more favorable energy density. For as far as electric cars have come in the last decade, the energy density of gasoline is still far greater than lithium ion batteries.

Teams gather each year in Australia to race pure solar cars across the continent from Darwin to Adelaide under the scorching desert sun for the World Solar Challenge. Consistent winners of this class have been the evolving Stella series from the University of Eindhoven, the team from which Lightyear sprang in 2016. Lightyear one reevaluated every component of the car and used lighter materials like aluminum and carbon fiber, to build a lighter vehicle with the best aerodynamic coefficient of any car on the market. Four independently driven in-wheel motors also lower the cars weight, and improve powertrain efficiency.

Sono Motors on the other hand, are starting with a more affordable $29,000 compact solar car designed for urban use. In designing the Scion prototype. Sono’s proudest new technology integrates solar cells into polymer body panels to replace conventional painted metal bodywork.

Toyota has experimented with a demonstration Prius with high efficiency thin-film triple junction cells made by Sharp, and Hanergy Solar, a Chinese manufacturer of thin film panels, have also demonstrated prototype cars with panels that can harvest 8-10 kWh per day and supplied such panels to Aston Martin for their GTE racing car.

Most solar panels rely on cells made from semiconducting silicon crystals, which convert sunlight to electricity at around 15%-19%, but new technologies are in the works to create higher efficiency solar cells utilizing new materials. As the future unfolds, and more cutting edge solar technologies come to market, we can see self charging solar electric vehicles become more and more practical, as cells get more and more efficient. A future cell technology with efficiencies above 50% would be a game changer, and probably make solar cars ubiquitous.

Heavy batteries are a limiting factor in the feasibility of solar cars. A breakthrough battery with more favorable energy to weight characteristics would revolutionize electric transportation, and make solar cars far more realistic.

Promising new technologies that utilize materials like graphene, solid polymers, and ceramics are currently in research and development, and are poised to create the next generation of powerful batteries with higher energy density, greater service life, faster charging, improved safety, and potentially even lower costs.

So should you mount a solar panel on your Tesla to make it a solar tesla? Watch the video to find out.

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50 Comments

  1. Esam Azouz on March 4, 2021 at 10:21 pm

    Two options one What if we use CSD or two wind milling turbo fans to produce electric volt to charge the batteries

  2. M Nihal on March 4, 2021 at 10:21 pm

    Someday human will shift to hydrogen as energy

  3. Jason Bell on March 4, 2021 at 10:22 pm

    so electric cars have 100% instant torque at zero rpm…..and your typical light bulb has 100% instant power…but solar panels only have 22% effiency… ?

  4. Nell Sam on March 4, 2021 at 10:22 pm

    Bye bye Petrol

  5. FLUMEN Paragliding on March 4, 2021 at 10:23 pm

    Clearly none here has sn idea about math. On the top of the atmosphere, where the satellites orbit, average solar power is 1.3kW. At the earth surface maybe .7 mid day. So taking into account the angle of the Sun’s rays gives you an average of maybe .4kW. If you have surface of 3m2 on the roof, you get 1.2kWh. So to charge 90kW battery you need 3 months of sunny days. In best case it will extend your driving 15miles per day.
    This roof panels is just marketing trick for clueless people.

  6. Ford Bronco on March 4, 2021 at 10:23 pm

    Great work, thanks for the video.

  7. Remus P on March 4, 2021 at 10:24 pm

    What can one informed dude with memory say ? Well.. Just like with the EV1 funeral moments.. the pastor said : The EV1 is not for everyone, but 98% of us! In the same way, an extra 30-40 miles per day of range from the solar panels.. IS definitely not for veryone 😉 But for at least 51% of us. It’s not yet the APTERA "Never charge" scenario.. but reducing the Tesla weight a little , reducing its batteries.. might just be beneficial for , again, at least 80% of us, 90% of the time. PERIOD.

  8. Auspicious M on March 4, 2021 at 10:26 pm

    People will park car outside the apartment

  9. rom jensen espera on March 4, 2021 at 10:26 pm

    Flywheel + permanent magnet electric generator equal to self charging vehicle.

  10. Stacey Hicks on March 4, 2021 at 10:27 pm

    The swift wrecker chronically dream because wound optionally rub a a modern sheep. typical, guarded department

  11. ASARADEL on March 4, 2021 at 10:28 pm

    the stupid blue solar panel vs the obviously more refractive black

  12. TwoCool 2Trip on March 4, 2021 at 10:29 pm

    Charge on the go. Like Hyliion does for class 8 trucks? Maybe use Hyllions solution for the Tesla plane/heli-plane?

  13. Syn on March 4, 2021 at 10:31 pm

    i wish tesla made a car of both rechargable using power source and solar energy

  14. Thomas Lauermann on March 4, 2021 at 10:33 pm

    Little typo at the 12:10 mark. These triple junction cells are made of Indium Gallium Phosphide, Gallium Arsenide and Indium Gallium Arsenide 🙂 Otherwise, great content, I bet with falling prices we’ll see that 10, 20% range extension coming standard in the future!

  15. Marian Perijoc on March 4, 2021 at 10:34 pm

    an idea for public transport ,you make cars that can charge eachother ,so it can sustain itself

  16. marinela on March 4, 2021 at 10:34 pm

    battery swapping stations. swap and go!

  17. Wesley Warren on March 4, 2021 at 10:34 pm

    Make it charge with air

  18. Alihaydar Gubatov on March 4, 2021 at 10:35 pm

    This is something that I thought before I knew anything about tesla at the age of 16. So, is this all of what scientists can do?

  19. Withnail1969 on March 4, 2021 at 10:35 pm

    Solar technology is not significantly improving and you can’t charge a car with solar panels on the roof. Maybe you could charge your devices plugged into the car with them.

  20. Felix Samulevich on March 4, 2021 at 10:37 pm

    Who pay for damage then ?

  21. George Villa on March 4, 2021 at 10:41 pm

    The better macrame conspicuously succeed because railway retrospectively ban absent a elite editorial. tasteless, macho asterisk

  22. Joshmakey12 on March 4, 2021 at 10:43 pm

    The panels would be too small to efficiently charge the car if built on the car. I’d say at best it would be able to extend the range or partially charge the car when not being used

  23. Querida Tess on March 4, 2021 at 10:44 pm

    The repulsive suggestion compatibly chase because addition operationally force by a draconian bookcase. orange, energetic invention

  24. robert fried on March 4, 2021 at 10:48 pm

    waiting for it….

  25. Rajesh.guduru ra Rajesh on March 4, 2021 at 10:50 pm

    Super bro

  26. Pypaut on March 4, 2021 at 10:51 pm

    A bonus is always good to take, too bad it still looks that ugly

  27. arup on March 4, 2021 at 10:51 pm

    I think AI Based Smart Car should be Hybrid Solar+Electric + Freecycle+Wind+Commpressed Air + Hydrogen Fuel/Petrol/Diesel = Idea is Vehicle will be able to use natural source and can be driven long distance. This Technology not only useful in the car but Rails, Planes, Ships, Missiles, Sattelite based IoT & Inetrnet Satellite for Research and AI-Based Comet Deflection Missile and even Space Vehicles. So
    Solar panels and battery is expected to become small and extremely efficient in future. Presently Solar Panels in car can charge bettery used for LED light atleast and automatic safty system.

  28. dusty bowman on March 4, 2021 at 10:51 pm

    why not have a belt driven generator on board, then hook that the AC/DC converter then to the battery

  29. Анур Гадельмурзин on March 4, 2021 at 10:53 pm

    why don’t you make sure that the car is not charged when not?

  30. James Luke Schlebach on March 4, 2021 at 10:53 pm

    Hey man, what are your thoughts on aptera? Would love to see a video!

  31. Анур Гадельмурзин on March 4, 2021 at 10:54 pm

    why don’t you make sure that the car is not charged when not?

  32. zelda orion on March 4, 2021 at 10:56 pm

    these cars perfect for Middle east countries…

  33. castiel vargasTV on March 4, 2021 at 10:56 pm

    I often only drive 1 or two times a week. With a solar panel on the roof i would never have to charge my car

  34. custom fitment on March 4, 2021 at 10:57 pm

    Why didn’t they just use the tec those flash light that you wind up to create light . Couldn’t they have done that the same way to the cars when the battery is getting low flick the switch, engages the systems charges while driving and it releases once the battery it’s a certain percentage?
    Does this already exists?

  35. VISHWANATH HEBBALAD on March 4, 2021 at 10:59 pm

    Why not vertical wind mill in at the front part of the car that is inside the grill

  36. Prairielander on March 4, 2021 at 11:01 pm

    Why not use nuclear fission?

  37. Felix Samulevich on March 4, 2021 at 11:01 pm

    But most danger represent not the power of electromagnetic radiation, but the fact of it fluctuation and so value of it is highly variable and it produce vibration of electromagnetic rays . Low frequency in electric cars change thousand of times and exactly this render harmful Inevitable effects make highly negative influence on people health condition . The more powerful and long lasting battery can be the more negative result it can produce in case of people health and life .

  38. Star Trucker on March 4, 2021 at 11:01 pm

    Elon says if you covered the entire car with his best panels, and you were out on a super sunny july day, your car would charge 4 miles of range per day.

  39. Choi on March 4, 2021 at 11:05 pm

    Also the problem with solar panel energy supplement is that the car with it can not get the energy source during the night. So why don’t they invent the artifitial sun before they talk about solar panel car? Float a mega bulb in the air or small bulb floating above the solar panel. Up to them.

  40. jana zapak on March 4, 2021 at 11:05 pm

    So you come to say others have started using solar panels on roof top of car, so tesla jumped in making one of those..

  41. Mehmet BALON 58 on March 4, 2021 at 11:05 pm

    süper system

  42. Kalevipoeg on March 4, 2021 at 11:07 pm

    It is WELL worth it to have even a small increase in range as a result, ESPECIALLY for anyone who wants an SUV that can go on some rugged outdoor adventure into the middle of nowhere and maybe do some offroading. Trust me…you are going to feel a LOT better about the range anxiety thing if you know that even IF you ran out of charge before you could reach a charging station, camp out and wait a while and you will be able to at least get to the nearest station for help. Without it, you are at the mercy of the built in range of your vehicle and have no chance at all of recharging once the thing is dead. Range anxiety might not be much of an issue for your average person in silicon valley where I live…most of them just drive to work and back and recharge as needed….but for people who DO want to use them for longer range trips across country, yeah…even an additional 15 miles is a big deal. WELL worth taking up some roof space with an integrated panel.

  43. Felix Samulevich on March 4, 2021 at 11:07 pm

    On the level of sells low frequency electromagnetic fluctuation lead to he situation when sells absorb ions charge if mention radioactivity of electro net of America and some else county people become like mobile phone easy to follow for control reason . As a result disorder and mutation of chemical process, tissues cease stop reserve oxygen supply, people becomes lethargic, and lose orientation on the variable level, The combination of all this factors not to be wonder can lead to cancer sooner or
    later .

  44. Buk David on March 4, 2021 at 11:11 pm

    But only one thing… I hate parking under the sun. ☀️🔥

  45. wade cooper on March 4, 2021 at 11:12 pm

    48 megajoules for a kilogram of gas is a wishful estimate based on chalk board science. The average car engine is only about 20% efficient so that 48 mj becomes only 10 megajoules per kilo of gas. And to be fair a battery stores energy, like a tank stores gas. The electricity put into that battery weighs very little compared to the weight of a full tank of gas, over 160 lbs or so. So to be fair comparing the two you must factor in the whole energy and mechanical system.
    A good ICE car can go about 400 miles on a tank of gas and a good electric car can do the same. The battery weighs more than the tank and it’s gas but the ice engine weighs much more than the electric motors. Then there are all the accessories that are required for a gas engine that are not needed for an electric car like a giant water cooling system, the water, exhaust pipes, about 6 quarts of oil, a heavy transmission and it’s liquid, an alternator , a water pump, an air intake system and filters, a fuel filter and the lead acid battery, a muffler and a catalytic converter.
    In the end the electric car still weighs a little more than the gas car of the same range but two other things must be considered and that is cost of operation and cost of pollution. When factoring in the cost of gas and the environmental cost of burning 160 lbs of fuel and dripping oil over a distance of 400 miles it makes up for a difference in energy densities that are moving closer together every few years. An electric car can be operated for about one cent per mile but a gas vehicle can be 10 to 20 cents per mile. Soon battery technology will allow cross country flights of passenger planes for far less money than current planes cost with no vapor trails criss crossing the sky.

  46. KWatt-Engineer on March 4, 2021 at 11:13 pm

    I want a model 3 with a solar unicorn.

  47. Choi on March 4, 2021 at 11:17 pm

    CEO Lex has not considered the safety of driver and passengers. Yes, Aluminium is light but also a very weak metal. When it is collided with another car with solid steel frames and panel, the car wearing Aluminium costume throughout is no more than a paper.

  48. glitch gamer on March 4, 2021 at 11:18 pm

    A good car like VW xl1,but electric.
    And solar panels .
    Thats what we need

  49. Christophe Breland on March 4, 2021 at 11:18 pm

    whats the light year crash safety like since its light as possible

  50. codename7000 on March 4, 2021 at 11:18 pm

    The guy from tesla is really stupid solar panels on vehicles are Helpful!!!!

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