Solar-Powered Power Wheels

by Ben N on July 22, 2012

My little girl just keeps getting bigger, and she’s almost the right size for a Power Wheels ride on toy. A while back I got one for free – it didn’t have a battery or charger, so it didn’t run.

I also had a Harbor Freight 45-watt solar panel kit. It dawned on me that the solar panels are really just a battery charger, and almost the exact right size for charging a used battery I had AND making a great roof for the car.

That’s all the motivation that I needed to put together the solar panels on a custom rack and attach it to the Power Wheels Jeep. When done, the entire vehicle will be completely solar powered!

Of course the real question is how does the kid like it!? Here’s a video of her driving around the finished solar-powered vehicle.
I also have a full “how-to” write up on the project at Instructables. 

(EDIT)

P.S. It’s been a year and the Solar PowerWheels still works great! The worst problem I’ve had is keeping adults out of it when I show it off at energy fairs! Here’s my little girl, one year older, and still having a blast!

(EDIT)

PPS: It’s been about two and a half years, and I still haven’t plugged the car into wall power! The old sticker on the Jeep have weathered off, and a neighbor kid crashed the car into a tree in our back-yard, breaking the clear plastic “hood” cover. I made a new cover from 1/4″ instead of 1/8th” plexiglass and created some new stickers using a vinyl-cutter. The Jeep has working tail-lights. I’m still considering adding working headlights.

{ 4 trackbacks }

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mark in OKC July 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Ben’s quote: “We gotta teach her about brakes”… LOL!!!

2 Ben N July 22, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Yeah, she’s still a little young, but she’s getting the hang of it!

-Ben

3 sean July 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm

So 45 watts changing a 40ah 12v battery? even in full power sunlight that would take like 30 or more hours to recharge that battery assuming it a new battery and not an older one that is less efficient.

4 Dave Tedder July 26, 2012 at 4:01 pm

Ben,

Your Power Wheels solar car’s getting additional mileage on Harbor Freight’s Facebook page!

5 Ben N July 27, 2012 at 9:02 am

Sean,
The car only uses two of the three Harbor Freight Solar Panels, so it’s 30 watts of charging, or about 2 amps at 12V charging voltages.
The battery is a 20AH battery. So, if it was completely discharged, it would be a max of 10 hrs. charge. Most of the time, the battery really does not get run down very far at all, so real-world charging is mush less than that. My daughter plays with this car every day, and just by leaving it in the sun, the battery stays charged up.

6 stuey September 12, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Ben,
I was thinking of doing the exact same thing to my sons electric jeep, i have a 250w panel, do you think this would be enough to mabey drive the car continoulsy in full sunshine? I live in Australia and the sunlight here is intense. Also me and my then 4yr old at the time both got in this little jeep and we drove two blocks away to the local shops and then back home again! haha i have a photo of that on facebook lol, anyway let me know if you think fitting a 250w mono panel (1.6m x .9m) onto the jeep might at least get me mabey 4 blocks distance away driving and back home again.

cheers stuey

7 Ben N September 12, 2012 at 8:48 pm

All the 12V Power Wheels batteries that I have seen have a built-in 30 amp fuse. So, 30 amps at 12V is 360 watts peak. Sounds like a 250watt panel might run it fine. (Running amps are always lower than peak amps) I’m not sure how a PV panel will work on starts, when the vehicle pulls the most power. You might still want a small battery in there for starting off?
The other thing to think about is how the power that you could have been making is “wasted” when you are NOT driving the car. Maybe you could hook up the PV panel to a small grid-tie inverter when it’s not being driven?

-Ben

8 stuey September 14, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Ben, thanks very much for taking the time to answer my post, i really didnt expect a reply as the post before mine was from july, yeah i would definatley throw a battery into the mix! In Australia at present most electricty companies dont pay you for the Kw/h you export (can you believe it?) and it is illegal to let your meter spin backwards here, so i would rather not export, also electricty here is presently 28c AUD per kw, how much do you guys pay for a Kw? (and our country is a massive coal and CNG producer, go figure)

9 stuey September 14, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Hey Ben
Does your little girl still drive her solar car? have you had any probs or have you had to change anything since the vid? did you manage to get the bonnet to fit back on? shoot me an email would love to stay in contact with you. Have you had a chance to check out a Tesla Model S yet? We are just getting the Volt here at the end of this year and i am going to be one of the first people on the east coast to go test drive one on october 2nd! cant wait.

cheers – stuey

10 Ben N September 14, 2012 at 9:57 pm

My little girl is still playing with the car. I really haven’t changed anything on it since the video. I did NOT replace the original hood (bonnet) on the car – it has a flat, clear plastic cover instead. I like being able to show off how it all works!

Electricity rates vary a bit, depending on where in the United States you are, and what power company you have. In the continental US, I think it’s typically 13 US cents per KWH. In my area, we have a really good power company co-op, and it’s about 10.5.

I haven’t driven the Tesla S yet, but the Volt is nice, as are all the commercially available electric cars. (Try the “Sport Mode” on the Volt, you’ll like it!)

11 Ben N September 14, 2012 at 10:02 pm

If you want to see my test-drive and review of the Chevy Volt, I drove the first one available in my state last year spring.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYjqQC28JGo

12 Michael Montana December 19, 2013 at 2:50 pm

We love the videos! Gonna post your videos in support! Finished the solar car for our neighbor’s son. Waiting to post after Christmas day! The smile on his face alone is worth it!

SHOUT OUT TO: MARK IN OKC
Have to agree with Mark in OKC “We gotta teach her about brakes”… LOL!!!

We wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas!

13 Ben N December 19, 2013 at 6:36 pm

Sounds great! Make sure to send over some photos or videos!

14 Ibps July 17, 2016 at 1:49 pm

Thanks for finally talking about > Solar-Powered Power Wheels < Liked it!

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