Envision Solar has long made large commercial solar arrays for large commercial parking lot installations. Tomorrow, its first single vehicle Solar Socket goes on display for the first time at the California Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego.
Each shade structure holds a 1.8 kW array, which provides enough electricity to fully charge the electric vehicles they provide shade for; making 8-10 kWh in a six hour day. Thus, this one, the smallest unit the company makes, is specifically designed to provide enough power to fully charge the Chevy Volt during a six hour day while parked there.
This is their first solar electric vehicle charger with a residential application, and COO Desmond Wheatley is very excited about the engineering challenges they were able to address because of this, enabling a “tree” shape with a single “trunk”. Each Solar Socket is perfectly engineered to power just one car, and the trunk enables the use of a finely engineered tracking system to gently move the array to maximize power production. The tracker boosts the power production by 25%.
But Wheatley told me that he also envisions parking lots full of these Solar Sockets, all gently following the sun in unison: “Quite a sight from out of your office window!” He assured me that because it is so carefully balanced – and of course, the tracking needs only an infinitesimal movement each time it moves to stay with the sun – that the tracker uses only a negligible amount of the power it produces.
This particular unit is designed to be portable, by GM’s request, because it is traveling to shows around the US over the next few months, so instead of the ” trunk” of the solar tree being rooted in the ground, this sample has these orange “feet” under the car, with the car providing ballast. But to install one in the ground, he says it would take about a five foot hole in the ground to set the 8″ pipe into a concrete footing.
The shade provided by the solar array also provides an additional benefit, he says, since 80% of the energy needed in an EV can easily go to cooling the battery. Cars parked in the sun can get to 150 degrees, which – as hard as that is for you or me, is actually even harder on the battery. The shade provided as the sun crosses this on an average sunny day cuts this to about 100 degrees, which helps to keep the batteries from freaking out while you’re at work!
Each measures six feet across and sixteen feet in length – which, serendipitously enough, is the exact size of a typical parking space, and also about the size of the average driveway at home.