Pros and Cons of a Solar Panel Car Battery Trickle Charger
Rather than be stuck with no electrical power in a vehicle, a car battery trickle charger can help to prevent failed starts. That characteristically strained sound emanating from your engine—the car turning over without starting—can only mean one thing: the battery is dead. Trickle chargers work by maintaining an even charge in a car or other vehicle's battery.
How It Works
A solar panel car battery trickle charger works in a very simple manner. A relatively flat panel containing photovoltaic cells absorbs sunlight and transfers the energy through a single cable to a car battery. This continual process helps to maintain the battery's charge, lessening the likelihood that the battery will die and the car (or other vehicle) won't start. Standard trickle chargers rely upon an AC electrical connection, that is, a regular wall outlet, for their power. Solar panel trickle chargers don't need a plug in...they have the sun.
Solar Panel Car Battery Charger: The Pros
Self-Contained—As mentioned above, the first advantage of this type of battery trickle charger is that it is powered by the sun. Solar panel models need no external electrical power source to supply a small charge to a battery. They convert energy absorbed in sunlight to DC power, which is immediately transferred to a battery, keeping it freshly charged and always ready to start.
Application—Another advantage is in its application. Unlike traditional trickle chargers that require that the charger be plugged into an outlet, solar panel trickle chargers can theoretically work while the car is in motion. The solar panel charger plugs conveniently into the 12-volt lighter socket in the dashboard of a vehicle, while the panel itself is positioned somewhere on the dash where it will absorb maximum sunlight.
All-Season Use—Solar panel trickle chargers are typically designed to operate in all weather conditions, from -40 degrees to 175 degrees F or more. That means whether it's freezing outside or in the high summer, the trickle charger will operate effectively.
Lightweight: Weighing around 4 or 5 pounds, solar panel trickle chargers are not cumbersome appliances.
Versatility—Useful not only on car batteries, they can also be used on ATVs, personal water craft or standard boats. Any vehicle with a 12-volt battery is compatible. With included alligator clips, the charger can also be attached directly to the battery terminals.
Solar Panel Car Battery Charger: The Cons
On the flip side, there are a couple of disadvantages to using a solar panel trickle charger:
Size—Given the fact that the solar panel must be wide and long enough to absorb an adequate amount of sunlight, this type of trickle charger is generally at least 1 square foot or bigger in size. Finding a place on a dashboard to mount it can be tricky.
Functionality—A trickle charger is not able to recharge a dead vehicle battery, only maintain a current charge. If the battery in your car or other vehicle is drained, a trickle charger will do you no good.
All told, the pros greatly outweigh the cons of using a solar panel car battery trickle charger. Given that it consumes no grid electricity, is lightweight and quite affordable (typically between $20 and $75), it makes a sensible purchase.