Powering Electric Vehicles with Renewable Energy


With the U.S. government's ambitious plan to reach 100% green energy by 2035, many Americans are searching for new ways to reduce their carbon footprint and conserve more energy.* One of the driving forces behind the battle for sustainability has been the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs). The electric vehicle market recorded a record-breaking 10 million sales worldwide in 2022.* By 2030, the IEA projects that more than 60% of vehicles sold globally will be electric.*

While EVs have a lot of proven environmental and economic benefits over conventional vehicles, certain factors still prevent them from being fully sustainable. The primary issue is that the power we use to charge our electric cars comes from a mixed bag of renewable and non-renewable sources. Fortunately, this is a problem we can fix. By switching to renewable energy and using it to power our EVs, we can further reduce our carbon footprint, conserve more energy, and save more money.

A study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) reveals that if renewables made up 95% of total power generation, emissions from driving electric vehicles would drop to less than one-third of their current level. This is a core difference between gasoline-powered vehicles and electric vehicles. Gas-powered cars produce a fixed amount of carbon, but electric vehicles have the potential to get more and more efficient as we transition to a cleaner electric grid.

As a leading provider of home solar systems, we at SunPower are committed to providing exceptional solar services to Americans that want to make the leap to sustainability. With that in mind, we've compiled this helpful guide to explain how to use renewable energy systems to power your EV charging station.

In this article, we'll discuss how to charge your EV sustainably at home, ways to ensure reliability, and why choosing solar is the best way to generate affordable, efficient power for your electric vehicle all year round.

How are electric vehicles powered?

EVs obtain their energy from a battery. An electric motor converts this energy into power, which generates torque and drives the vehicle's wheels. EVs emit far fewer greenhouse gasses over their lifetime than traditional gas-powered cars, making them widely hailed as the future of driving.

Electric cars are undeniably better for the environment than traditional cars, but there are still some hurdles to overcome before they can be considered fully sustainable. The biggest problem currently lies with EV charging. While some EV owners charge their vehicles from renewable power sources, such as solar or wind energy, many still rely on electricity from the grid.

According to a study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), fossil fuels accounted for 79% of America's energy generation in 2021, with approximately 8% coming from nuclear power and about 12% from renewable energy projects. While clean energy adoption is rising, increasing to an estimated 14% of total electricity generation in 2022, we still face a long road to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Electric vehicle batteries must be recharged regularly. This poses a fundamental problem for sustainability. Drawing power from the electric grid to charge your car means the energy supplying your EV is not guaranteed to be renewable. In short, our EVs can never be wholly sustainable until we power our electric cars exclusively with renewable energy sources.

What are the benefits of charging EVs with renewable energy?

Charging your EV with renewable electricity has several proven environmental and economic benefits. Here are some key perks of going green with your EV.

  • Reduced environmental impact: A U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study shows that the transportation sector generated 28% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2021. Whether fueling a gas-powered car or charging an EV from the grid, using fossil fuels to power our vehicles consumes valuable resources and contributes to global warming. Conversely, renewable resources release no carbon dioxide into the environment. By switching to green energy for your EV charging needs, you can reduce your carbon footprint and drive toward sustainability.

  • Energy independence: Charging EVs with renewable energy promotes energy independence. Utilizing one or more renewable energy sources to power your car reduces your reliance on the electricity grid, giving you greater control over your energy use and, when paired with a home solar battery or a bidirectional battery in your EV, improving your resistance to power outages.

  • Cost savings: The U.S. Department of Transportation outlines that the average American driver travels around 13,476 miles yearly. That translates to almost 37 miles per day. Considering the average energy consumption for electric vehicles and electricity costs by state, EV owners who draw power from the grid will spend an estimated $1.85 a day, or $675 a year, to power their cars. When you switch to renewable sources, you won't need to pay for the electricity you generate. In addition, you may be able to sell excess power you generate back to the electric grid for credit.* Powering your EV with renewables gives you more opportunities to save money while contributing to a greener future for America.

Which renewable energy sources can you use to charge EVs at home?

Powering your electric vehicle with sustainable energy sources is an efficient, affordable way to do your part for the environment.

Solar Energy

Implementing solar panels into your home or business is an efficient, cost-effective way to generate renewable energy year-round. They're also the ideal renewable source to power your EV.

A standard electric car can travel around three miles per kilowatt-hour (kWh). With Americans traveling an average of 13,476 miles a year, you would need approximately 4,492 kWh of electricity to power your car all year round.

By working with a leading solar provider like SunPower, you can install a solar system that is designed and customized to meet your household’s energy needs. Keep in mind, a good solar company will perform an energy audit, taking into account both your current usage as well as any increases that might come with your future plans, whether that’s adding an EV, pool, or new family member. As a plus, your EV charging station will integrate seamlessly into your solar system, so you can easily track exactly how much energy you generate and use to charge your EV.

The best part about solar is that it's accessible to almost everyone. Unlike many other location-dependent energy options, your solar panels can generate energy in locations where there's sufficient light.

Wind Energy

Wind turbines can be a brilliant way to power your EV, especially if you live in a windy area. Wind power is best suited to those who live in rural, open locations because it requires an average wind speed of at least 14mph, so it may not be the best choice for those who live in heavily populated urban areas.

To improve your energy output, consider combining wind energy with solar power. Your panels will generate electricity when there's no breeze, and your wind turbine will work through the night when your solar panels are inactive. Combining these two renewable sources is a great way to provide greater energy independence, reducing your reliance on the electric grid.

Hydroelectric Energy

If you live near a running water source and can attain the necessary planning permission, incorporating a micro-hydropower station into your home energy system is an excellent way to supply energy to your EV charger.

Hydroelectricity accounted for about 6.2% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2022, but most of this power came from large-scale dams and hydroelectric power plants. American homeowners have been slow to adopt hydroelectricity, in part because installing a micro-hydropower system is usually only possible if you live in an expansive rural area. Location dependence, permitting requirements, and considerable upfront costs make hydroelectricity inaccessible to many Americans.

That said, for those that can attain it, hydropower is a reliable, efficient way to reduce your carbon footprint and save money when charging your EV at home.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal solutions harness the natural heat beneath the Earth's surface, converting it into electricity. They are a durable, efficient way to power your home and vehicle. However, much space is needed to install geothermal pipes under your home, and thus, geothermal systems are another renewable energy source best suited to those in rural areas. Consider combining geothermal systems with solar power to generate heat in the colder months when your panels aren't as effective.

How do you improve the reliability of your home EV charging station?

Combining multiple renewable power systems to charge your EV isn't always an option, and unreliability is a significant concern for EV owners. If your renewable energy equipment has a day of lower production, how do you generate enough power to charge your vehicle?

Fortunately, by combining your grid-tied renewable energy system with solar battery storage, it's now possible to sustainably and affordably charge your EV at home with minimal reliance on unsustainable energy sources.

In a panels-only solar system, any excess electricity that’s produced and not immediately used by your household is typically sent back to the grid. While you’re still using renewable energy to power your home during the day when the sun is shining, you’ll still need to draw electricity back from the grid at night or during times when your solar panels aren’t producing enough for your needs. That means that, while considerably better for the environment than conventional home energy systems, grid-tied renewable systems cannot be entirely net zero, since there is no guarantee that the electricity you use from the grid has been generated by a renewable source.

Solar batteries can solve this problem by allowing you to store the excess electricity your system generates for later use. When your solar panels produce more energy than you need, you can store this excess for days when the sun isn’t shining. This saves you money, reduces your dependence on unsustainable grid electricity, and gives you confidence that you’ll have the energy you need to power your home and car sustainably.

What are the benefits of powering electric vehicles with solar energy?

Solar energy is the most efficient, accessible, and affordable way to power your electric vehicle. Let's explore the key benefits of charging your EV with solar.

  • Availability: Solar is widely available to most Americans. You don't need to live in a windy area with lots of space, and, while permitting can still be a factor, it’s easier to get started with solar than with most other renewable energy systems. If your home gets enough sun, you can charge your EV with solar.

  • Emission-free: Converting sunlight into power doesn't release any greenhouse gasses into the environment. Solar energy helps you conserve more energy, reduce your carbon footprint and do your part for sustainability.

  • Low operational costs: Once your solar system is set up and running, it'll last for decades. Plus, it's only recommended to clean your panels once or twice a year, so you'll rarely need to do any maintenance work.

  • Cost-savings: The more solar energy you generate to power your EV, the more you'll save on your utility bills. Smart charging systems allow you to save even more money by optimizing your charging schedule and ensuring you only charge your car during off-peak hours.

  • Customization: The number of solar panels you’ll need will depend on your home, lifestyle, future plans, and energy goals. Fortunately, it's easy to set up a system that covers your unique energy needs. Whether you need a two-panel system or fifteen panels to power your home and EV, a leading solar provider like SunPower can tailor their service to match your electricity consumption.

What are the challenges of powering electric vehicles with solar energy?

Solar energy doesn't come without its challenges. That said, as technology advances, many of the hurdles that previously impacted the effectiveness of solar power are easy to overcome.

  • Limited energy storage capacity: Many solar systems in the past struggled with energy storage and intermittent charging. Fortunately, this is no longer an issue. With high-quality energy storage systems, you can save any extra energy you generate during peak times and use it when the sun isn’t shining or when electricity rates are at their most expensive. And batteries with backup capabilities can even help keep the lights on during an outage.

  • Limited space for solar panels: If you don't have a large roof, don't worry. These days, high-quality solar panels from a leading provider like SunPower are incredibly efficient. Even if you only have roof space for a few panels, you’ll still experience a reduction in your energy bills, and a significant boost to your sustainability efforts.

  • Limited charging speeds: Some EV chargers suffer from a lack of speed. A basic Level 1 charger can take up to 50 hours to fully charge your car's battery. When picking the perfect charger, opt for Level 2 or above.

Switch to Renewable EV Charging with SunPower

Going solar at home is an excellent way to power your EV. It reduces your reliance on fossil fuels, helps you conserve energy, and saves you more money on your electricity. Moreover, as renewable technologies evolve and improve, we can expect even more exciting, sustainable EV options to appear.

With all of the incentives and perks of switching to renewable energy, there's no better time to play your part in sustainability than by going solar, and SunPower is here to help. With powerful, high-quality roof-top solar panels, an industry-leading 25-year warranty, and integrated EV charging systems, we have the solutions you need to charge your electric vehicle with renewable energy for years to come.

Ready to learn more about how you can power your EV with clean, renewable solar energy?

SunPower is changing the way our world is powered by making solar and storage more accessible to everyone. With nearly 40 years of dedicated solar experience, we're the top-rated U.S. solar company with over 15,000 five-star reviews.* If you're considering installing solar panels, energy storage, or EV charging at your home, make sure you talk to SunPower.

Schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with SunPower by calling 1-800-SUNPOWER. Or click the Get Started button and we'll get in touch with you! Our team of Solar Advisors is here to help make your transition to a sustainable lifestyle.