Unlike standard chargers that need to be plugged into outlets, solar chargers work anywhere with a clear view of the sky. But can a solar charger really provide enough juice to charge a car battery?

Do solar car chargers really work?

While solar chargers work, they have some important limitations. They aren’t as powerful as standard car chargers, so it’s not a good idea to charge your battery as quickly as you would with a regular charger.

Unlike standard chargers with multiple amperage settings, solar chargers typically produce very little current. For this reason, they are more useful for maintaining a charge than for battery recovery . You can use a solar car charger as a charger, but you’ll be left with cooling heels if the battery is completely dead.

How solar chargers work

Solar chargers work by converting the sun’s energy into electricity that can be stored in a battery. This is achieved with a photovoltaic solar panel, which is the same underlying technology used in residential and commercial applications to provide on-site power.

However, the solar panels used in solar chargers are nothing compared to those used in residential or commercial solar systems. Although the technology is the same, the panels used in solar chargers for car batteries are usually capable of delivering a maximum of 1500 mA. And while you can technically link multiple chargers together, it’s dangerous if you’re not familiar with the technology.

Can solar chargers charge car batteries?

The amount of amperage a solar charger can produce depends on several factors, including build quality and the amount of sunlight. On average, they give out from 500 to 1500 mA. That’s why solar chargers are more efficient in quality manual chargers .

One problem is that most solar chargers lack a voltage regulator to change or cut off the power flow. This means you can’t «set it and forget it» as you would with a manual float control charger.

The best way to use a solar charger is to increase the current at start up and then decrease it when the battery is almost fully charged. High quality chargers are capable of doing this automatically, and other chargers include a manual control that allows you to set a «course» speed to start and a «fine» speed to end.

As with any solar charger, sunlight is critical. If all you can do is 500mA on a cloudy day at north latitude, then that’s all you’ll get. They can be useful in a pinch, but the temperamental availability means you probably can’t depend on them.

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