Smart solar panel for RVs auto-tracks the sun, doubling off-grid power

Roboteos Heliotrope Sun-tracking RV Solar Panel
The Roboteos Heliotrope merges the benefits of ground-deployable solar panels with a roof-mounted RV panel setup. Images courtesy Roboteos

As the demand for efficient, off-grid power solutions grows among RV enthusiasts, a California startup, Roboteos, has introduced a novel approach with its Heliotrope 1.0. This rooftop solar panel system is designed to automatically track the sun throughout the day, promising to significantly enhance solar charging efficiency for recreational vehicles (RVs) and camper vans.

Traditional solar charging systems for RVs typically fall into two categories: permanently mounted rooftop panels and deployable ground systems. Rooftop panels are convenient but often not optimally positioned to capture maximum sunlight. Deployable systems can be positioned more effectively but require manual setup and adjustments throughout the day. The Heliotrope 1.0 aims to merge the advantages of both systems, providing a hassle-free, high-efficiency solar charging solution.

The Heliotrope 1.0 is engineered to meet the increasing power demands of modern RVs, which often carry extensive battery banks to power an array of electrical equipment and gadgets. This demand is further amplified by the popularity of off-road adventures and boondocking, where access to conventional power sources is limited.

One of the standout features of the Heliotrope 1.0 is its ability to maximize solar energy capture. Mounted as a compact unit atop an RV or van, the system uses a combination of GPS and an internal measurement unit (IMU) packed with sensors to track the sun’s position relative to the vehicle. This dual-axis design allows the Heliotrope to rotate 360 degrees, ensuring optimal sun exposure throughout the day.

Roboteos Heliotrope RV Solar Panel How it Works
The Heliotrope 1.0 uses GPS and dual-axis rotation to automatically track the sun, optimizing solar energy capture throughout the day.

The system operates autonomously, deploying at sunrise, adjusting its position as the sun moves across the sky, and retracting at sunset. This automatic functionality is controlled via a wireless touchscreen controller, offering a user-friendly experience. The Heliotrope’s design means RV owners can park their vehicles in any orientation, and the system will adjust the solar panels accordingly.

Roboteos claims that the Heliotrope 1.0’s 400-watt solar panels can deliver up to 2.5 times the energy of a stationary rooftop panel, equating to the performance of a 1,000-watt array under optimal conditions. However, in typical summer conditions, the system is expected to deliver 1.3 times the energy output, equivalent to a 520-watt array. This variability in efficiency highlights the system’s dependence on environmental factors such as weather and time of year.

Roboteos Heliotrope RV Solar Panel Efficiency
Roboteos says that the Heliotrope 1.0 delivers up to 2.5 times the energy of stationary panels in ideal conditions, and about 1.3 times during typical summer weather.

Durability is a key consideration for any equipment designed for off-grid and adventure use, and the Heliotrope 1.0 is built to withstand the rigors of such environments. The system can endure winds of up to 25 mph (40 km/h) when deployed and includes an automatic retraction feature for higher wind speeds. When the vehicle is in motion, the system folds into a sleek box, with the solar panels facing upward. Designed for adventure van life, the Heliotrope is rugged enough to endure bumpy, dusty trails, withstand 80 mph (129 km/h) winds when closed, and brave storms.

Roboteos Heliotrope RV Solar Panel Folded Flat
The system withstands 25 mph winds when deployed and automatically retracts in higher winds, folding into a sleek box when the vehicle is moving.

The Heliotrope 1.0’s construction features automotive-grade components, stainless steel hardware, and waterproof electronics, ensuring it can handle the challenges of dusty trails and inclement weather. Roboteos offers a three-year warranty on the mechanical and electrical components, along with a ten-year warranty on the solar panels, underscoring the company’s confidence in the product’s longevity and reliability.

Currently available for preorder, the Heliotrope 1.0 is priced at $5,440 under an early bird discount. Roboteos anticipates starting deliveries in July and has begun showcasing the system at various adventure van and overland shows. The company’s presence at events like Overland Expo West provides potential customers an opportunity to see the Heliotrope 1.0 firsthand and learn more about its capabilities and benefits.

Roboteos Heliotrope RV Solar Panel Actuators
The Roboteos Heliotrope 1.0 uses three actuated struts for precise dual-axis rotation, ensuring optimal solar tracking.

The introduction of the Heliotrope 1.0 by Roboteos marks a significant advancement in solar charging technology for RVs, offering a practical solution for those seeking efficient and convenient power sources for their off-grid adventures. By automating the solar tracking process and enhancing energy capture, the Heliotrope 1.0 stands to become a valuable addition to the toolkit of modern RVers.

Roboteos Heliotrope Sun-tracking RV Solar Panel Render
The user simply activates the system via a wireless touchscreen, and the panel automatically deploys, tracks the sun, and retracts.

Source: Roboteos