A Tesla owner has demonstrated a rather novel way to charge his Model 3. In a recent video, Sean Callaghan of the ItsYeBoi YouTube channel opted to use a series of off-the-shelf solar panel sheets onto a towable trailer to create a mobile charging unit for his all-electric sedan.
Callaghan planned to use only the sun and the solar sheets purchased from e-commerce platform Wish to charge his Model 3. The solar panel sheets would collect energy from the sun and transfer it to a control panel. The control panels were connected to batteries that would hold the energy—the batteries connected to an inverter, which would then charge the Tesla Model 3.
The entire assembly would provide the Model 3 with about 800 watts of energy on a completely sunny day. However, Callaghan shot the video when weather was overcast, so the entire solar panel trailer build only managed to provide around 300 watts throughout the YouTube host’s test.
To put this into perspective, a 100 volt home wall outlet provides 1.4 kilowatts of power, or 1,400 watts. Therefore, the 300-watt solar panel assembly built by Callaghan was producing less than 25% of the energy of a typical wall outlet. This is pretty marginal compared to Tesla’s 250-kilowatt V3 Superchargers, which provides 250,000 watts, or about 833 times as much power as the makeshift solar panel build.
However, Callaghan’s goal was not to charge the vehicle quickly. He explained the idea came from a previous video where he used a $5,000 Wish-purchased wind turbine to charge his Model 3. He wanted to test the effectiveness and efficiency of the system, which was questionable due to the time it would take to charge the battery fully.
The Model 3 battery pack is 78 kWh, and with Callaghan’s 300-watt system charging his electric vehicle, it would take 260 hours to supply the Tesla’s battery to full capacity.
In the past, electric vehicle enthusiasts have asked Tesla CEO Elon Musk why the company’s vehicles do not contain solar glass roofing, which would charge the car while the owner is driving. Musk has explained that the efficiency of this idea is challenging and likely would not provide an ample amount of range.
When asked about the idea of putting solar panels on the top of Tesla’s vehicles in 2017, Musk responded that the idea was “Not that helpful, because the actual surface of the car is not that much, and cars are often inside. The least efficient place to put solar is on the car.” It also would not be cost-effective for Tesla because “the cost of the panels and electronics, R&D and assembly would never pay for itself in the life of the vehicle, compared to charging from the wall in your garage,” Quartz noted.
That being said, Tesla plans to implement solar panels onto the motorized tonneau of the upcoming Cybertruck. The idea was discussed on Twitter when Musk stated that the optional feature would add “15 miles per day, possibly more” when parked in the sunlight. Also, fold-out solar wings could help capture enough solar energy for 30 to 40 miles a day.
Watch Sean Callaghan’s video of his makeshift solar panel trailer below.