Product Review: Solar Car Battery Charger

This summer’s essential product for car battery health

How many times you have come back from a holiday only to find out that your car engine in no mood of starting? You find yourself calling your friends frantically for  jump leads. It is even worse when you are at the mercy of your breakdown cover  provider,  who are of no assistance if the car is parked next to your home .

Every battery loses its charge with time. This is called discharge rate which determines the shelf-life of the battery, i.e. the time taken till complete loss of charge when left alone. The rate of discharge also goes up with temperature. And therefore, in that sweltering summer heat, when cars are left alone, it is very likely for the battery to get drained quicker.

A normal automobile battery has about five “Charge cycles”. This means that the car battery can be discharged completely from a hundred per-cent charged status, only up to 5 times. Discharging it the sixth time will “wreck” it.  If however the battery is discharged partially, than the battery lasts much longer. The lesser the depth of discharge (DOD), the higher the number of charge cycles.

Solar Battery Charger

Solar Car Battery Charger

Caravan batteries, based on the pattern of use are designed to last longer  and have higher amount of  designed charge cycles. Deep cycle batteries are normally used for caravans.

For better health of the battery, it is advisable to keep it topped up and keep the DOD low. One device that can take care of this is the solar car battery charger. The charger can be placed behind the windscreen and can be connected to the battery through the cigarette-lighter socket. It can be also directly connected  to the battery terminals.

The solar charger device comes with a blocking diode that ensures that there is no drain back of charge during the night time (reverse charging). It should be noted, that the solar charger only requires light to work. It does not matter if the daylight is direct sunlight or diffuse light (cloud cover).

Some of these devices also come equipped with flashing LED indicators. These indicate if the battery is getting charged or is completely charged.

Note that the utility of this device is higher in vehicles that are left standing for a long duration of time. This product is therefore suited to Cars (in showrooms and dealerships), Caravans and even Boats .

Depending upon the size of the charger, the power output can be from 1.5 to 3 watts. The open circuit voltage is over 12 Volts and is normally about 15-18 Volts. As it is a trickle charging device, the current is in the order of milli amps (50 -100 mAmps).  Therefore one should not expect it to charge the battery pack of an electric car.  Although research is underway to have car body panels entirely covered with solar panels with a much higher power yield.

The panels on the charger are normally amorphous silicon that degrade lesser compared to their crystalline counterparts in high heat. Therefore one should expect them to last the lifetime of your vehicle and even work for the next one.

It has personally helped me several times after my vacation to drive away just with a turn of a key. We highly recommend this product to everyone with a vehicle that remains idle for long durations.

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