Ask the Editors: Can’t The Sun Do More?

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How about a rechargeable ATV you never have to recharge.

Dear ATVC: I am seriously considering getting an electric UTV and was wondering why solar panels aren’t integrated to recovery some battery charge or increase range.

This is one of those things that is theoretically possible but not practical in the real world. Why? Because the size of the solar panel needed to recover a noticeable amount of battery voltage or increase the vehicle’s operation range between charges would be ridiculously large and require far more absorption time than is ever going to be possible on a jaunt.

The sad reality is that while the sun dumps incredible amounts of energy upon the planet every moment we face it, our current technology is not terribly efficient at harnessing it. A 50hp electric motor would require somewhere to the tune of 36,000 watts while a decent-sized panel can collect somewhere around 300 watts on a sunny day.

Lastly, when it comes to off-roading, OEMs generally try to engineer everything on their machines to be sturdy enough to handle rough conditions and occasional crash scenarios. Obviously the concept of mounting massive glass panels about the vehicle’s exterior really doesn’t coincide too well with this objective.

However, we have seen resourceful use of solar panels mounted to garage/ shop roofs that serve as trickle chargers. Their stationary and unobstructed position often allows for the collection of enough solar energy to keep a long-stored battery from discharging. This is the principle behind the example in the photo shown above. If you were going to park your ATV in a sunny area for an extended period of time, it is possible with today’s technology to set up a solar panel designed to trickle charge the vehicle’s 12-volt battery.

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