Leveraging Parking Lot Solar Panels for EV Charging
A Closer Look at a Green Eco-System
It sounds like a utopian dream: rows of electric vehicles staying cool and charging away beneath solar panels while their owners shop, dine and conduct business. The air would be cleaner, and people could knock out two birds with one stone, fueling their ride while tending to other necessary chores.
Parking lots seem logical places for solar farms, blocking the sun’s rays from baking vehicle interiors and converting that energy to usable power to make the cars run. Why aren’t such facilities multiplying everywhere?
Parking lots covered with solar panels is an idea whose time has come. If Walmart alone would do so, it could generate as much energy as 11 large power stations. Multiply that figure by the number of shopping plazas serving other needs. Perhaps a future of energy surpluses isn’t beyond the imagination—what if humanity could collectively lower utility bills while reaping other perks? The thought is appealing.
Furthermore, such changes could help avert the looming climate crisis. The right changes to infrastructure, technology and policies could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 70% by 2050—a crucial deadline for controlling rising temperatures. It’s now or never if humans hope to prevent the mercury from increasing by 1.5° Celsius.
Many wonder, “why not install solar panels on an EV’s roof?” Doing so might be practical in the future, but the math doesn’t add up at present. There simply isn’t enough space to produce adequate power and attach a strong enough inverter to make charging practical—one example estimates it would require more than 400 hours to charge a Ford F1-50 Lightning. However, rooftops or covered parking areas provide the necessary acreage.
It’s possible to construct off-grid charging stations, but they come with hassles, such as storing power when the sun doesn’t shine. Connecting to the grid allows businesses to sell back unused capacity, saving money and preventing wasting energy when surpluses occur.
However, one of the problems that prevent such parking lots from arising everywhere is high installation and connection costs. Wiring to the grid requires a licensed contractor certified in local electrical codes, which must be standardized. The labor and permitting requirements often far exceed the solar panel cost, making such projects prohibitively expensive. Furthermore, installing the system requires closing off parts of the parking lot, creating hassle for business owners.
Once completed, though, such projects may eventually pay for themselves. They also benefit EV owners, as batteries charge best in dry conditions—the panels would block the rain.
As EV ownership continues to expand in America, expect more businesses and developers to investigate the merits of leveraging parking lot solar panels for EV charging. Such structures could provide power to attached firms and employee and customer vehicles.
Engineers and legal minds will continue to address the problems keeping such facilities from proliferating. For example, standardizing electrical codes could lower grid connectivity costs, and improved panels will improve efficiency while lowering sticker prices.
Charging your car while working or shopping may sound utopian, but that reality is nearly here. As developers discover the benefits, more will begin looking into parking lot solar panels for EV charging. Those considering investing in EVs could soon enjoy a comfortable, covered spot that tops off their juice.