Why doesn’t Tesla make cars with a sunroof with solar panels is a pretty intuitive question? If you think about it, wouldn’t it make sense to have a self-sustaining charging capability? You might’ve asked yourself these questions or seen the questions on Quora.
Teslas and other cars run on electricity; they draw from an electric-power infrastructure. But why not solar power, it generates lots of electricity that too for free from the sun. So, why don’t Tesla’s electric cars have solar roofs to power them for free?
Why doesn’t Tesla make cars with a sunroof with solar panels?
For one thing, the math makes the situation quite complex. Elon Musk did briefly suggest that solar roofs would be an option for the Tesla Model 3, however, later walked it back and explained why. “Having solar panels on the car itself?” Musk said in July 2017. “Not very helpful, because the actual surface of the car is not that much, and cars are generally inside. Which makes the least efficient place to put solar on the car.” As it turns out he had meant a solar roof that would unfold from the trunk, then cover the current car hood.
A company rival, the Karma Revero, did debut with a solar roof as an option. As Wired already noted, modern solar panels are inefficient, as they convert just 15-20% of the energy that reaches them. So, the Revero solar roof, having received eight hours of pure sunshine, will only be able to generate enough power to drive 1.5 miles. On the contrary, eight hours of charging Tesla’s Model 3 from a wall socket will give you your expected 200-plus miles of range.
Let’s say solar panels are opted as a charging method, the top of an electric car has maybe 3–5 square meters of flat space. Solar panels, even at high noon, usually just produce around 200 watt-hours per square meter.
The most efficient production electric vehicles today would only be able to travel 2–4 miles on that amount of electricity in an hour, you could say you would walk faster than that.
Financially, the cost of the panels and electronics, R&D combined with assembly would never pay for itself in the life of the vehicle, when compared to charging from the wall in a garage.
If that wasn’t a valid enough reason, parking in the sun can fade the paint, trim, as well as upholstered. The last thing electric car manufacturers want to do is give people an incentive to park them in the sun by adding solar roofs for supposed charging. They would instead you go without its benefits so extra sales are made.
PV On EV Pros as well as Cons
PV stands for photovoltaics. So, when you put solar cells on an electric vehicle, it is EV PV.
EV PV could have plenty of advantages:
- Solar roofs can extend range by supplying energy during the day.
- Could reduce power drawn on hot sunny days from the air-conditioner.
- Allow the battery pack to slowly charge without requiring a grid connection.
- Protect the battery from harm by preventing its charge level from dropping too low if not used for an extended period.
- Provide emergency power during a blackout.
- Reduce charging costs because sunlight is free.
Unfortunately, as there are pros there are also some drawbacks to EV PV. These are:
- Increased cost.
- Potentially increased battery deterioration due to extra heat from parking in the sun.
- Extra air conditioner energy consumption.
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