Relying on the same technology as regular panels, portable or mini solar panels can power many small to medium electrical appliances and most electronics, from smartphones to laptops. But what about a battery electric vehicle, such as a Tesla? Can you charge a Tesla with a portable solar panel? And if so, how long would it take?
Technically, you can charge a Tesla with portable solar panels through a generator or a power station. You might need a bonding plug and an electric outlet splitter. That said, charging a Tesla with portable solar panels is a slow, unreliable, and unviable process.
Portable solar technology is more dependable now than ever before. However, power and size constraints make portable solar panels impractical to charge an enormous 75 kWh or 100 kWh Tesla battery. Keep reading to learn how to charge a Tesla with portable solar panels.
How Long Would It Take To Charge a Tesla With Portable Solar Panels?
Charging any Tesla with portable solar panels is significantly slower than using a Wall Connector. Even the Tesla Mobile Connector plugged into a 120 V receptacle or wall outlet in a house or any destination will likely deliver faster charging speeds due to a higher amps output.
The exact time a set of portable solar panels would charge a Tesla depends on many variables. Here are a few scenarios:
Charging a Tesla With 400 Watts Portable Solar Panels
Suppose your portable solar panels have a combined power capacity of 400 Watts. You might have 4 x 100 Watts solar panels or 2 x 200 W foldable variants.
Both configurations are unlikely to deliver 400 Watts of power even in ideal conditions or peak solar hours. The solar energy these panels generate may be significantly less in unfavorable conditions. You will also lose some energy during transmission (more about this later).
For a theoretical assessment, let’s assume the panels work at perfect efficiency. In other words, all 400 Watts of power from your solar panels are delivered to your Tesla. This power will be delivered through a solar charge controller and generator. Alternatively, you may use a power station with an integrated charge controller.
The maximum solar energy output of 400 Watts portable panels will likely be ~3 amps for a 110V to 120V AC outlet. Around 3 amps of constant current flow, or the peak output of 400 Watts for an hour, is the equivalent of 0.4 kWh.
Thus, it would take ~187.5 hours to fully charge a Tesla with a 75 kWh battery from its near 0% state of charge. A Tesla with a 100 kWh battery will require 250 hours to fully charge with 400 Watts portable solar panels. These durations are highly optimistic and theoretical.
Suppose you want to charge only 1 kWh of a Tesla battery, regardless of capacity. A Tesla Model 3 usually ranges around 3 to 4 miles per kWh or 0.75 to 1 mile per 250 Wh. So, 1 kWh of charging with portable solar panels can regain a few miles for your Tesla.
A setup of 400 Watts portable solar panels will take around 2.5 hours for a Tesla battery to gain 1 kWh of charge and its equivalent in miles or range, provided the conditions are perfect and all the components operate at their peak capacity.
However, you don’t need to stay confined to this peak output with portable solar panels feeding energy into a generator or power station.
Charging a Tesla With a 1,000 W Portable Solar Generator
Now let’s consider another scenario: 400 W portable solar panels connected to a 1 kW power station. Such a power station with a built-in solar charge controller can deliver up to 9 amps of current through a 110 V or 120 V AC outlet.
If this power station is at 100% state of charge, it can deliver up to 1 kW in an hour, equivalent to around 9 amps of a constant and steady current for the entire duration. A Tesla can gain ~1 kWh of charge with this solar generator or power station in 1 hour.
Now, the 400 W portable solar panels connected to the power station can generate up to 0.4 kW of power in 1 hour, during which time a Tesla gains nearly 1 kWh. The power station will still have 0.4 kW of charge that it can deliver in under 30 minutes at a peak output of up to 9 amps.
Therefore, in 1 hour and 30 minutes, you can charge a Tesla to gain up to 1.5 kWh, which will probably increase the vehicle’s range by approximately 5 to 6 miles. You can reduce this time further by using a 1,500 Watts power station at 100% state of charge, more panels, or both.
Extrapolating this calculation to continuously charging a Tesla with portable solar panels and a power station won’t work. Once you use the power station’s initial 100% state of charge, its subsequent output is subject to the portable solar panels’ capacity, i.e., 400 W in this example.
Portable solar panels probably won’t constantly operate at their peak or maximum efficiency, so the power station’s higher output capacity won’t matter. The speed of charging a Tesla will also be less than the real-time energy output of the portable solar panels.
Portable Solar Panels Can’t Deliver 100% Power to a Tesla
Portable solar panels rarely generate electricity at a constant rate. The wattage will fluctuate at different times of the day. You may also notice instantaneous minor fluctuations. So, the peak output capacity in real-time is unlikely in normal circumstances and when you charge a Tesla.
You will have some loss of power in transmission, including the following components:
The power station or solar generator with an external or integrated charge controller will use some energy. Plus, Tesla’s battery management system will consume power, which won’t be accounted for in the displayed state of the charge, regardless of the gain in range or miles.
This energy loss in transmission and the power consumed by different components may be as little as 5% or over 10%. The loss could exceed 20% with faulty connections and in unfavorable conditions, such as cold temperatures, overheated batteries, etc.
How To Charge a Tesla With Portable Solar Panels
Many contemporary portable solar panels have outlets to charge electronic devices directly. These outlets are usually 12 V or 24 V DC connections. So, you can’t use them to charge a Tesla.
To make this work, you need three things:
- A portable solar generator or power station.
- A bonding plug for grounding
- An outlet splitter to use the same AC receptacle of the power station.
Standard solar generators typically have floating neutrals, so you cannot use one outlet for the grounding and another for charging.
You’ll also need the Tesla Mobile Connector to use a portable solar power station’s 110 V or 120 V AC outlet. If you already have portable solar panels and a generator or power station, the kit probably contains the necessary adapters and cables.
Buy an Electric Outlet Splitter for the Solar Generator or Power Station
You will probably need an AC outlet splitter like this Woods Cord Set, available on Amazon.com. This extension cord and splitter have the following specifications:
- 2 feet long
- 3 AC outlets
- 12 gauge (AWG)
Connect this Woods cord set or a similar AC outlet splitter to the solar generator or power station. The Woods cord has 3 ports, so you can use one for the neutral-ground bonding plug and another for the Tesla Mobile Connector.
Get a Neutral-Ground Bonding Plug for Your Tesla Mobile Connector
The Tesla Mobile Connector needs a grounded AC outlet but portable solar generators or power stations with built-in charge controllers don’t have grounding. There are some DIY ways to connect the neutral and ground of the outlets of power stations, but such methods aren’t for everyone.
Play safe and get something like the Southwire Neutral-Ground Bonding Plug (available on Amazon.com). This will readily fit the Woods splitter and other standard outlets. Such a bonding plug is an essential component of a portable solar panel setup that you want to use to charge a Tesla.
Set Up the Portable Solar Panels, Power Station, and Tesla Charger
Finally, you can assemble the charging setup with the following components:
- Portable solar panels
- Solar generator or power station
- Splitter and neutral-ground bonding plug
- Tesla Mobile Connector (charger)
Your portable solar panels and generator or power station will already have the adapters and cables that you need for them to work together. Here are the other steps to charge a Tesla with portable solar panels using the components I mentioned:
- Align your portable solar panels according to the sun’s angle of incidence at your location while charging a Tesla. Ensure no obstruction or shade will otherwise affect the efficiency and electricity output of the portable solar panels.
- Connect every portable solar panel to the generator or power station using their adapters and cables. If the same brand makes these components, all will be compatible, and this phase of the setup will be a plug-and-play or turnkey process.
- Connect the single inlet of the Woods Cord Set to an AC outlet of the portable solar generator or power station. Tesla has a massive battery capacity, so don’t use portable solar panels or the power station to charge anything else simultaneously.
- Insert the neutral-ground bonding plug into one of the outlets of the splitter, and plug in the Tesla Mobile Connector using the adjacent port. The included adapter of a Tesla Mobile Connector will fit the Nema 5-15 outlet of the Woods cord set and splitter.
- Insert the mobile charger into your Tesla and start charging your electric vehicle with portable solar panels and the power station. Ensure the AC outlet of the power station is live and the solar panels are working. Check the Tesla MCU for progress.
This setup should work if everything is alright. However, a Tesla may not charge if the maximum current in the charging settings is higher than the amp output of the power station. For example, if you have 48 amps as the current limit, reduce it to less than the solar generator’s output.
Suppose you have a Jackery Solar Generator 1000 (available on Amazon.com) with 2 SolarSaga 100 W Solar Panels. This power station has a maximum current output of around 9 amps. You can reduce the maximum current limit to 9 amps or lower for your Tesla to charge with this set of solar panels.
The 2 SolarSaga 100 Watts panels aren’t as powerful as the 400 W setup I explained earlier. Still, you can charge the Jackery power station with another source, like the typical 120 Volts grid outlets.
The Southwire neutral-ground bonding plug and the Woods outlet splitter will work with the Jackery Solar Generator 1000. If you want a more powerful solar generator or power station to charge a Tesla faster, you may consider the Jackery Explorer 1500.
However, the capacity of a power station won’t matter much if you don’t have enough portable solar panels. A 100% state of charge of a Jackery Explorer 1000 or 1500 will deplete in no time when you charge a Tesla. Thus, you must expand the portable solar panel setup.
If you will be off the grid or out in the wild with portable solar panels and your Tesla, you need to consider a setup like the Jackery Solar Generator 2000 Pro (available on Amazon.com) with 6 SolarSaga 200 Watts panels. The Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro can deliver nearly 2,200 Watts of AC power with 100% charge.
The 6 x 200 W solar panels in the Jackery kit can generate 1,200 Watts or 1.2 kW of power in ideal conditions. So, you can charge a Tesla up to 1.2 kWh in 1 hour, excluding any charge that the Jackery Explorer 2000 Pro may already have when you set up the solar panels.
Furthermore, the Jackery 2000 Pro has a maximum output of ~19 amps through its 110 V AC outlet. If this power station has a 100% state of charge when you connect it to a Tesla, your EV will gain up to 2 kWh in 1 hour, equivalent to approximately 6 miles or more.
If the power station has no charge, the 6 x 200 Watts portable SolarSaga panels can generate up to 1,200 W that the Jackery Explorer 2000 can route to a Tesla. Your Tesla will gain up to 1.2 kWh of charge in 1 hour, or around 4 to 5 miles increase in range if the conditions are suitable.
You can charge a Tesla with portable solar panels if you have the other essentials in this guide. The charging speed will still be slow, and the available power will be limited compared to the grid. Also, you may need a compatible adapter for a Mobile Connector.
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