In a novel approach to electric vehicle (EV) charging, Omid Sadeghpour has spent the past couple of years developing a folding rooftop solar array for his Tesla Model Y, potentially offering up to 20 miles of additional driving range per day through solar energy alone. The project, dubbed Dartsolar, represents an effort to capitalize on the sunlight that bathes parked vehicles, turning idle time into an opportunity for charging.
The inspiration behind Dartsolar stems from the simple observation that many EVs, while used for daily commutes, spend a significant portion of the day parked in open spaces under direct sunlight. Seeing an untapped resource, Sadeghpour, in collaboration with Jeran Bruce at California’s Forged Makerspace, set out to harness this solar energy effectively. The result is a prototype that combines practicality with innovation.
The first iteration of the project, known as Beta 1, features a wooden frame supporting telescoping carbon-fiber tubes that extend to deploy nine 175-W flexible solar panels. This setup not only ensures that the system remains lightweight, at under 165 lb (75 kg), but also guarantees that the expanded array fits within the confines of a standard US parking space.
The design cleverly houses the panel junction boxes in the trunk, allowing for versatile electrical connections and reducing the weight carried on the roof. Moreover, the system is designed to be collapsible, folding down into a rooftop box in less than a minute for ease of transportation.
Despite its prototype status and the personal nature of the project, Sadeghpour estimates that the Beta 1 system can generate around 6 kWh of energy daily. This translates to roughly 20 miles (32 km) of added range, assuming direct conversion from DC to AC and back to DC for charging. It’s important to note that the project, at this stage, is not positioned for commercial release but serves as a proof of concept for solar-assisted EV charging.
The Beta 1 version, however, presents challenges, particularly with its 11-inch (28 cm) height when folded, which could impact the vehicle’s aerodynamics. Addressing this, a second prototype, Beta 2, is in development. This version aims to halve the height of the folded array and increase the system’s efficiency, with a potential range increase to 45 miles, and exploring direct DC-to-DC charging methods to further extend this to about 63 miles under optimal sun exposure.
Sadeghpour plans to make the design and construction details of the Beta 1 prototype available to the public via the Dartsolar website, encouraging community involvement and feedback. While specific details on the availability and pricing of a commercial version of this solar charging system remain undisclosed, the project highlights the potential for integrating renewable energy sources into the EV ecosystem, providing a glimpse into future possibilities for sustainable vehicle charging.