Car battery Solar charger

Solar Car Battery Chargers: Best Buying Tips
While car solar battery chargers work, the charging amperage typically isn't very high. imagenavi / Getty

Question: Do solar battery chargers work?

Been thinking about getting a battery charger to have one just in case, and I came across these “solar battery chargers” while I was looking. Seems like it could be a really handy thing to have, but it sort of tickles my “too good to be true” sense, like those “jump starters” you plug into your cigarette lighter. Cool in theory, but less so in practice. Do these solar battery charger things really work, or should I save my money for the real deal?

Answer:

Solar battery chargers do work, so long as you don’t expect them to be something that they aren’t. Unlike regular battery chargers that often have multiple amperage settings, solar battery chargers typically put out a very small amount of current that is more useful in maintaining a charge than charging a dead battery. And you’re right to be a little suspect of any charger that only comes with a cigarette light socket adapter, many solar battery chargers also come with alligator clips.

How Solar Battery Chargers Work

Solar battery chargers work by converting energy from the sun to electricity that your battery is capable of storing. This is accomplished by a photovoltaic solar panel, which is the same basic technology you may have seen used in residential and commercial settings to provide off-grid or grid-tied power. In fact, home solar power systems often use lead acid batteries to store power for use at night or on overcast days.

Before you get excited, the solar panels used in solar battery chargers are nothing compared to the ones used in residential and commercial solar power systems. While the technology is the same, the solar panels used in solar battery chargers are typically only capable of putting out between about 500 and 1, 500 mA.

And while you can technically tie multiple chargers together, doing so is dangerous if you aren’t familiar with the technology.

Solar battery chargers typically aren’t equipped with regulators, either, which means that if you hook one to a load, it will happily provide whatever it is capable of providing whether it’s actually a good idea or not.

Can Solar Battery Chargers Charge Car Batteries?

The amount of amperage that a solar battery charger puts out will depend on a variety of factors, including the build quality, how sunny it is, and your latitude. However, they typically put out somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 to 1, 500 mA. You can find solar chargers that put out more, and panels designed for recreational vehicle use are often capable of putting out a lot more, but a reasonably priced solar charger for car batteries will be in that range.

If you’re familiar with trickle chargers, it will be readily apparently that solar battery chargers are indeed capable of charging car batteries. Since that is the general range that trickle chargers typically operate in, there shouldn’t, in theory, be any issue with charging a car battery with a solar charger.

One issue is that most of these chargers don’t include a voltage regulator or any way to modify or shut off charging, which means that you may not be able to set and forget it like you can with a trickle charger that includes built-in float monitoring.

NOCO NOCO Battery Life BLSOLAR2 2.5 Watt Solar Battery Charger and Maintainer
Automotive Parts and Accessories (NOCO)
  • Ultra low-profile 2.5W solar charger that s perfect for maintaing cars, motorycles, boats, ATVs and more
  • Thin film technology that works well in low-light, cloudy and overcast conditions
  • Built-in power level LED illuminates when solar panel is generating power
  • Safely charges and maintains Wet, Gel, MF, EFB and AGM batteries
  • Add more control with Flex Regulators for charging 6V and 12V batteries, plus battery recovery mode
Battery Tender Battery Tender 021-1163 5W Solar Maintainer
Automotive Parts and Accessories (Battery Tender)
  • 5W solar panel with built-in battery tender super-smart charging
  • 100% portable battery charging & maintenance controller
  • 12V nominal voltage/270Ma
  • Temperature-compensation sensor
  • Spark proof
  • Built-in 3-step microcontroller for precise charging
  • Waterproof and sparkproof for outdoor installations
  • Easy, do-it-yourself installation
  • Built-in temperature compensation sensor
  • 12V nominal voltage 270 mAmps
Schumacher Schumacher SP-200 2.4W Solar Battery Maintainer
Automotive Parts and Accessories (Schumacher)
  • It is environmentally safe
  • No electricity needed for operation
  • Amorphous technology allows charging on cloudy days
  • Rated for indoor and outdoor use
  • Complete with battery clamps and 12 Volt plug
MicroSolar - 30w Solar Charger Kit // Plug & Play// IP68 WATERPROOF Solar Charge Contoller - 18 Ft Cable - Optional 16 ft extension cable // Cigarette Plug with Fuse & Alligator Clips Cable
Lawn & Patio (MicroSolar)
  • IP68 WATERPROOF CHARGE CONTROLLER.
  • 30W Solar Panel with ALUMINUM BRACKETS.
  • PLUG & PLAY. FOR 12V BATTERY.
  • 18 FT CABLE & OPTIONAL 16.4 FT EXTENSION CABLE.
  • Cigarette Plug Cable with FUSE & Alligator Clips Cable.
Sunway Solar Car Battery Charger Portable Solar Power Trickle Charger Maintainer Backup For 12V Battery of Auto RV Motorcycle Boat Marine Vehicle Tractor ATV Snowmobile Watercraft
Automotive Parts and Accessories (Sunway Solar)
  • [Very Easy to Install]-The solar charger panel mounts easily to the windshield or dash and conveniently plugs into your car s 12 volt cigarette lighter! Suction...
  • [3W 15V Solar Panel]-Keep your 12V batteries( 20AH) topped off with this solar battery charger ,which helps to manage battery drain in all seasons. Designed to compensate...
  • [Stronger and Durable]-Covered with ultra clear PV glass which is more efficient and also with Durable ABS plastic housing which is stronger. And it is weatherproof...
  • [For Any Rechargeable 12V Battery]-This solar battery trickle charger is the eco-friendly way to maintain the charge of any car, truck, marine , motorcycles , tractors...
  • [LED Indicator]-with Blinking LED charge indicator when charging. And the solar charger maintainer Includes cigarette lighter adapter and alligator battery terminal...

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