Solar EV charging stations are hardly new – as regular readers of SolarChargedDriving.Com surely know. But every now and then something comparatively new comes along in the world of solar EV charging.
Now is one of those times, at least according to Princeton Satellite Systems, which claims it will soon be producing “the first 100 percent green charging station for electric vehicles.”
100 percent solar-charged
Princeton’s so-called “SunStation” is an off-grid solar EV charging station that links solar panels, an EV charger, and a battery storage system to ensure that 100 percent of the electricity flowing into your EV’s batteries has been produced directly by solar energy.
This contrasts with far more common grid-tied solar EV charging stations, which may, or may not, end up pumping electricity into your EV that has been directly produced by solar energy. That’s because these grid-tied solar EV canopies do not store solar-generated electricity on site, but send that electricity immediately into the larger grid.
Similarly, most solar-charged drivers with home solar have systems that are tied into the general electric grid and, because, the majority plug their EVs in at night, their EVs are not technically running on solar-generated electricity.
Solar-offset charged EV
Instead, they are using so-called solar offset, or “extra” solar electricity they’ve generated earlier in the day, when the sun is shining, to “fuel” their EV. The “extra” solar electricity they generate during the day immediately flows into the local electric grid and is used up by their neighbors. In the end, then, these EV drivers are technically driving on electric “fuel” generated by whatever electricity production means their local utility is using to create electricity at night.
The sense of satisfaction of absolutely, 100-percent flipping the bird at Big Oil and Dirty Coal that comes with an off-grid solar EV charging solution such as the SunStation – a sense of total satisfaction that does not come with a grid-tied solar system, trust us – is priceless.
Thus, Princeton Satellite Systems’ “SunStation” is for the solar-charged driving purists, or those who want to cut their auto-fueling ties to fossil fuels 100 percent.
According to the company, the larger SunStation – which provides so-called Level 2, or 240-volt charging, can fully recharge a Nissan LEAF in eight hours, a Chevy Volt in four, and a Toyota Plugin Prius in 1 ½ hours.
Additionally, according to Princeton, “The high-efficiency solar panels produce the maximum power with the minimum footprint.”
Princeton plans to make the SunStation in two basic forms, one with 1.6 kW of solar and another with 3.2 kW of solar. The smaller solar EV charging station will have 12 kWh of batter storage, while the larger one will have double that.
Pre-incentive costs for the off-grid systems will be steep, at $27,000 for the 1.6 kW version and twice that for the 3.2 kW version. The Princeton spec sheet notes that the stations will use SAE J1772 plugs, but does not mention who will manufacture the EV charging station portion of the off-grid EV + PV canopy.
EarthTechling critical of SunStation
EarthTechling.Com recently ran a story that’s highly critical of the SunStation, basically slamming it for allegedly not packing enough solar punch and battery storage.
For instance, EarthTechling claims that a solar system of at least 5 kW will be needed to produce, on average, the 15 to 20 kWh it says many EV drivers will need per day – 15 kWh translates into about 50 miles of electric driving.
In fact, whether a 1.6 kW or 3.2 kW SunStation will be too small depends heavily on where that SunStation is located. If it’s in the American Southwest, chances are good that a 3.2 kW array will produce at least 15 kWh almost every day of the year, even in the winter.
In fact, a 5 kW system would be overkill in Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Southern California, Colorado, Utah (except when it’s covered in snow, of course) if the aim is to produce at least 15 to 20 kWh per day.
For example, our 5.59 kW system, located in Aurora, Colo. consistently produces 30 to 39 kWh per day from late April through mid-September and typically produces at least 20 kWh of solar electricity even on the shortest days of the year (we do, however, have a problem with snow cover, but that’s a problem independent of system size).
Off-grid EV + PV offers unique benefits
In fact, while the EarthTechling piece asks important questions – most notably, will the SunStation produce enough electricity to effectively charge EVs – it ultimately reads like a one-sided, pro-grid-tied solar story.
While grid-tied solar has its benefits, so too do off-grid solar and off-grid solar EV charging.
On a practical level, the SunStation could be used to charge plug-ins in remote areas, far from the electrical grid.
On a political level, the SunStation allows plug-in owners to make a 100-percent clean break from fossil fuel. Yes, this break comes at a steep individual price. However, the sense of satisfaction of absolutely, 100-percent flipping the bird at Big Oil and Dirty Coal that comes with an off-grid solar EV charging solution such as the SunStation – a sense of total satisfaction that does not come with a grid-tied solar system, trust us – is priceless.
If you’re interested in the SunStation and live in the New Jersey, New York City area, New Jersey residents will be able to take a closer look at the SunStation soon. According to Princeton Satellite Systems, one is supposed to be on display on Sept. 29 at the Living Green Expo at the Princeton, New Jersey airport