Solar Charging for Electric Vehicles

Solelia Greentech makes it possible for companies to charge corporate or employee electric cars with clean solar electricity produced right in their own parking lots. Through an advantageous collaboration with Ikano Bank, the Solar Charger can be rented with no upfront investment needed from the customer.

Transportation accounted for 13% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2004 (IPCC 2007). The sector accounts for over half of global oil consumption, and this share will increase if the number of passenger cars doubles and demand for road freight rises as predicted (WEO 2012). In Sweden, transportation accounts for 30% of total CO2 emissions, yet a local target for an emissions-free fleet by 2030 means changes need to start happening now.  Electric cars are rolling out onto Swedish roads, yet replacing gasoline cars with expensive electric cars is not climate-friendly if the new e-cars are driven on fossil-based electricity.

When charged with conventional grid power, electric vehicles are not the clean alternative they could be. By 2020, 30-50% of all new cars being sold globally are predicted to be electric. This fact, coupled with the strong market penetration of solar cells, and solar’s decreasing costs, makes Solelia believe in a future with cars running on pure sunshine.

With a Solelia solar-powered charging station, users can charge with clean solar electricity today. Electricity produced by the company’s Solar Charger can be used or saved/credited in a special account at Solelia’s Solbanken™ (the Solar Bank) – the stored electricity can then be claimed/withdrawn at any time of the day, any day of the year. Should additional electricity be needed, Solbanken™ will automatically purchase clean solar electricity from external producers.
A Solar Charger from Solelia Greentech is more than just a charging pole. The Solar Charger is designed to protect against sun and rain, and requires minimal area in the parking lot. With installation of a small optional motor, the charger can follow the sun during the day to produce as much electricity as possible – up to 30% more than conventional, fixed solar cells. The Solar Charger can also be personalized in a company’s colors, e.g. with logo, slogans and other corporate information. Customers get a clear and easy-to-understand graphical interface showing produced and consumed electricity.
Current models of the Solar Charger have two roofs of 14 square meters, covering two parking spaces. Solar Charger’s maximum power output is about 2.16 kW, and the charger produces up to 2400 kWh / yr. This gives about 14,000 to 20,000 kilometers of driving per year, depending on car type and driving style.

Today, the upfront investment in renewable energy and energy-efficient technologies can be a major barrier for governments, companies, and consumers to choose them. Solar PV and electric vehicles are two good examples. In addition, carbon emissions from transportation have proven to be difficult to curb. With electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles (EV/PHEV’s) as well as solar panels readily available, the challenge is to spur demand, in Solelia’s case by transforming capital-intensive products into services (also known as product-service system (PSS) or functional sales). The Solelia business model, including the Solbanken™ feature, is an inspiring example of such a PSS, with a strong potential to facilitate faster electrification of the world’s transport fleets.

If the growth rate of EV/PHEV’s using clean solar power can be accelerated, and market share achieved three years earlier than projected*, product-service systems like Solelia’s Solar Charging for Electrical Vehicals can contribute to the reduction of 21 million tonnes of CO2 in 2022, according to WWF’s calculations.

* Based on the IEA Blue Map Scenario (2009)

Solelia has already launched its Solar Charger on the market, and received a very positive reception. The company’s solution won Environmental Solution of the Year 2012, Globe Forums ‘Urban Innovation’ 2012, and is part of a 4 million SEK research project with The Swedish Energy Agency. 

Solelia’s Solar Chargers are up and running at customer sites; the company intends to bring in external capital and go international in spring 2013. Within the next year Solelia will kick off its international expansion by offering solutions together with a big global partner, first in Norway, then throughout Europe.

Solar Chargers together with Solbanken™ are tailored specifically towards early adopters of electric cars in Sweden: companies and organizations. By 2014, when electric cars reach more of a mass market, Solelia will offer solar charging solutions tailored to private car owners. Solbanken™ will be continually developed and will be adjusted to the new markets with new functionalities.

Technology-wise, Solelia’s solutions have no major barriers.  On the contrary, the rapid spread and reduction in price of solar cells is beneficial to solar charging of electric cars. One barrier specific to Sweden is the high price of electric cars, and the low incentives given to electric car drivers. One suggestion to decision makers in Sweden would be to look only as far as our neighboring country Norway where electric car drivers sometimes pay less for an electric car than a car run on fossil fuels, and where they can drive in carpool lanes and park for free in the cities.

An additional barrier is the lack of recognition by the public and policy makers that electric cars are only as clean as the electricity they are charged with. The electric car is not a zero polluter if it is driven on fossil electricity. It is also critically important that planners and policy makers transition energy infrastructures towards renewable sources. 

Solelia is a tight-knit team of four co-founders who have worked together in various constellations prior to founding Solelia Greentech:  Per Wickman (Product Development), Daniel Wahlberg (IT & Systems Development); Björn Lindh (Systems Development); and Carolina Johansson (CEO). Together Solelia’s team has 35 years of experience in the energy field — from business management to systems development and architecture, from international strategy and management to serial entrepreneurship.

Per Wickman saw the two trends of solar cells and electric cars emerging and founded Solelia to help them converge. Why not charge electric cars with clean solar electricity produced by the charging station itself, Wickman wondered. Why not make charging stations pleasing and elegant, rather than boring steel boxes, to help transform gloomy parking lots with cheerful charging ‘furnitue’? Wickman’s answer to these questions was to start Solelia. Together with co-developing customers Brostaden and Uppsala, the first Solar Charger prototype was showcased in fall 2011 and installed in summer 2012.