Blog Home

Controlling 3.6kW of solar EV charging with an Arduino GIGA R1 WiFi

Arduino TeamMarch 4th, 2024

The EV (electric vehicle) versus ICE (internal combustion engine) debate is more complicated that it may seem, but one fact is quite simple: it is much easier to generate electricity at home than it is to refine fossil fuels. This means that it is possible power a vehicle for free after the initial investment. But doing so takes quite a lot of hardware, which is why Shawn Murphy developed this charging system controlled by an Arduino GIGA R1 WiFi.

Murphy owns a Ford Lightning electric pickup truck, which is inefficient by EV standards thanks to its weight. But even at just two miles per kWh of electricity, he estimates that he can break even on the cost of his solar charging system within four to five years. After that, the electricity to power the Ford will, essentially, be free. Any excess energy can power his home or feed back into the grid.

Just powering the truck alone will require a lot of electricity, so Murphy acquired 10 used 360-watt solar panels. Those feed to a battery backup array, which supplies power to the Ford charging station. 

To maximize efficiency, Murphy wants the solar panels to pivot on one axis to follow the sun. He estimates that will increase their output by 20-25% throughout the day, which is a significant amount of energy with a solar panel array this large. An Arduino GIGA R1 WiFi board controls the tilt of the panels via linear actuators. Murphy originally used “dumb” actuators, but is switching to “smart” models from Progressive Automations that include positional feedback through Hall effect sensors.

A GIGA Display Shield gives Murphy access to an interface, which he can also access through the Arduino Cloud. In addition to controlling the linear actuators, the Arduino monitors power generation and consumption.

This is still a work in progress as Murphy continues to make improvements, but he’s well on his way to “free” energy for his truck.