Solar Carports and Electric Cars Were Meant to be Together

Written By: EightySix

Edited By: Assen Gueorguiev

When sunlight hits a parking lot and bounces off unused, we should get upset. That space should be covered by a solar carport with charging stations. What use is it to build zero-emissions cars then charge them off a dirty grid. Your power source is coming in through your windshield. Grab it.

In early 2015, Ford expects to complete a 1.13 megawatt installation at its World Headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. It will cover 360 cars and hold 30 charging stations. It will be the second largest solar carport in the mid-west, behind the 1.56 megawatt unit at the Cincinnati Zoo. The largest solar carport in the nation is the 4 megawatt facility at the Department of Veteran's Affairs in Phoenix, Arizona.

But there's no need to go huge. You can buy a carport small enough to shade and charge one car. You can cover the parking lot next to your store or office. Companies willing to install, maintain and manage your solar array are on the grow. Costs are being driven down by innovation and competition. Governments are subsidizing purchase and installation.

Why a Carport?

Solar panels are a great idea anywhere: on your roof, over your bus stop or covering your business. Building a carport from scratch, however, is easier than fixing panels to an existing structure. Wiring through a building then installing inverters and storage batteries is tricky. It costs labor and risks damage to real estate.

By all means, add solar to your building, but don't ignore the parking lot. It's an easy build. That space above the parked cars isn't doing anything. If you could provide shade, weather protection and EV charging while perhaps selling power back to the grid, why wouldn't you?

How the Photovoltaic Process Works

Photons of light excite electrons inside a photo-diode. The excited electrons are attracted toward the cathode, causing an electric current. Solar panels are large collections of photo-diodes. The electricity formed is direct current. An inverter is necessary to switch the power to alternating current for transfer to the grid. The charging station can use excess solar power or draw from the grid when sun is not plentiful.

A surface much wider than the car is required to create enough electricity to charge an EV battery. This is why solar powered cars are currently impossible. Solar panels atop the Toyota Prius power climate control systems. Ford's C-Max Solar Energi requires a magnifying carport and several hours to permit twenty miles of range.

This Should Be Cool

We need to make it hip to have a solar array. It should be seen as irresponsible to not use available space to harness the sun. The electric car and the solar carport are like a hand and a glove. They were meant for each other. It could even look awesome, like BMW's bamboo and carbon fiber structure designed for the i8. 

Fortunately, many car makers are teaming with solar providers. With Elon Musk connected to both Tesla and SolarCity, their cooperation on Superchargers is natural. Toyota has a new carport over its Tijuana plant. Honda is subsidizing solar installations for dealerships and Honda owners. Audi is partnering with SunPower to make solar easy for buyers of its e-Tron cars.

Your business needs to be doing this. Not only will you lower your energy costs, but improve your image. Potential clients and customers will see your shining photovoltaic apparatus and follow your example. Oh, and buy your stuff, too. Meanwhile your competition down the street is leaving customers’ cars scorching in the sun while burning coal for electricity.

Find a solar provider and help them help you. Stop wasting perfectly free sunlight.

Does your company have a solar carport? If YES, please share with us your experiences so far…the good and the bad.