CleanTechnica reader Daniel McGuire loved his fully electric Chevy Bolt, but wanted to make it more sustainable. After a few experiments with solar panels, he took on the task of adding 2,200 watts of solar panels and cells to the Bolt itself for an electric vehicle that recharges from the sun without having to be plugged in.
We talked with Daniel about the project and the journey that connected his passion for sustainable living with the solar-powered Chevy Bolt that sits in his driveway today. Daniel said that as with most projects, his started with a small idea. He first saw a solar-powered car in a college competition. The car was flat and UFO-like and planted a firm seed in his head. “I just thought wow, this is amazing,” Daniel said.
He wanted to use the solar panels and cells that were so good at producing power for cell phones, 12 volt battery chargers, and laptop chargers at a slightly larger scale to power his car, a Chevy Bolt.
At first, he tried purchasing a solar system for his car from a local electrical engineering firm, but was put off by the $30k price tag. He felt he could build a higher quality, lower cost system so he set out buying parts and sketching out the design of the system. Initially, Daniel started out with a few flexible panels mounted to the car and continued iterating and adding more panels until the system eventually reached the 2,200 watts worth of 23% efficient SunPower solar cells that it is today.
As it stands, the system is fully attached to the vehicle, with a panel that can be loosened up from under the rooftop panel and slid out when parked. In an earlier video of the system before it was fully built out, Daniel gives a nice walk through of the solar panels on the car and the charge controllers that keep the power flowing. A second panel slides in over the driver’s side window and allows the system to reach its full potential. He also has some mirrors that can be pulled out to angle the sun’s rays to maximize the output on the side of the car that’s not facing the sun.
By default, the system pre-charges a 300Ah, 12 volt lithium-ion battery which in turn powers a 2,000 watt inverter. Charging up a battery with the solar lets the car charge when driving or when the car doesn’t need any extra range. When needed, Daniel plugs his 1,450 watt EVSE into the inverter, which lets him push power down to the car at 8 amps. It’s not going to break any charging speed records, but it will definitely add meaningful range the car over time.
He designed the aluminum rails for maximum aerodynamic flow and stability which he has tested at up 130 kilometers per hour with no issues.
The objective of the whole project was to power his life with 100% solar power. He has already done this at his house, thanks to a 6kW system there and the system he’s built onto his Chevy Bolt does the same for his driving. It took him a year and a half along with about $20,000 in materials for the first system. Daniel was so encouraged by what he learned from the project that he started up a company to build these systems for others.
He’s now making charging systems and custom solar racks for others interested in solarizing their rides. Daniel sees the opportunity as something that will be much bigger than an enthusiast mod-shop can do. He told me that, “If a poor hillbilly like me can do this, what can one of those multi-billion dollar companies do?”
Check out the solar car and his solar power car kits at Daniel McGuire’s Solar EV Modifications to learn more about his project.
If you’re in the market for a Tesla, feel free to use my Tesla Referral code for your purchase: http://ts.la/kyle623. Doing so gives the buyer (and me) 1,000 miles of free Supercharging credit and allows us to cover Tesla even better in the future.