The Ultimate Guide to the Tesla Solar Charger


Tesla has been breaking into the solar industry ever since it acquired SolarCity in 2016 to carry out Elon Musk’s Master Plan Part Deux, which included the development of solar roofs with the capacity for battery storage. So far, this part of Musk’s plan is coming along swimmingly, and we’re here to tell you all about the integrated Tesla Solar Charging system.

Elon Musk calls this fully integrated system “The Tesla Ecosystem,” and it is intended to supply power to all of the electrical loads in your home, as well as your electric vehicle (EV) charger. How does this system work, is it affordable, and how much power can it actually supply? We’ll cover all of that and more below.

The Tesla Solar Power Charger Ecosystem

Elon Musk’s dream of creating a sustainable, solar-powered “ecosystem” has been realized in the form of the Tesla Ecosystem. This multi-part setup will allow users to charge their homes and Tesla electric vehicles with solar power.

Rather than selling the Tesla Ecosystem as a full system, Tesla has developed individual parts that allow consumers to scale their ecosystem to best suit their sustainable energy goals.

Here, we will explore each of the elements involved in the Tesla Solar Power Charger Ecosystem, taking care to look at each part’s role in the whole system.

Tesla Solar Panels and Solar Roof

The development of Tesla solar panels and the Tesla Solar Roof is the direct result of Tesla’s SolarCity acquisition. They are integral to Elon Musk’s Master Plan Part Deux, which lists creating an integrated solar system among its top priorities.

Both the Solar Panels and the Tesla Solar Roof work by capturing the sunlight hitting your roof and then converting it to electricity using the Tesla Solar Inverter. The electricity produced by this solar system will power your lights, appliances, and even your electric vehicle charger.

When used alone (as in without a Powerwall), your home will rely on solar power during sunlight hours, limiting your grid-sourced electricity to nighttime use and thus, lowering your electricity bills.

As a bonus, if you don’t use all of the power generated by your solar system, that electricity will flow back through your meter, allowing it to be distributed to other consumers attached to your local power grid. In this case, your electric company will have to pay you for the electricity generated by your solar system. This is why solar systems are thought to pay for themselves over time.

Tesla Solar Panels

In creating the Tesla Solar panel, Musk’s engineers primarily updated the existing technology for roof-mounted solar panels to create a more efficient, more cost-effective solar panel. The specs of the Tesla Solar Panels are impressive, which positions them to be competitive in the growing solar panel market.

Tesla solar panels produce 340 Watts, which is on the high end for the industry. For consumers, this means you will ultimately have to buy fewer Tesla solar panels to achieve your energy requirements.

Tesla solar panels also boast a 25-year performance guarantee (warranty). Tesla even offers a price matching program to help you ensure you are getting the Tesla Solar system for the most affordable price, in line with Musk’s Master Plan.

For this reason, Tesla does not indicate a set price for their solar panels on their website. But based on information gathered by Solar Reviews, the average cost of a single Tesla solar panel is $683, including installation.

Tesla Solar Roof

The Solar Roof embodies the next generation of at-home solar power technology. It combines the technology from solar panels with high durability roving tiles to create a solar power system that doesn’t violate your homeowners’ association’s ordinances.

Each Tesla solar roof incorporates both solar and non-solar tiles to create a ratio that satisfies your individual power needs. Tesla recommends a fifty-fifty ratio of solar tiles to non-solar tiles, but an investigation from Consumer Reports did find that a 70-30 ratio worked better on older homes, larger homes, and/or homes in climates with less daily sunlight.

The tiles are intended to be more cost-effective by combining the solar panels’ cost with new roofing costs. The Tesla Solar roof is meant to be accessible to anyone who would otherwise be purchasing a roof, to begin with. Based on Consumer Reports’ calculations, a solar roof could save homeowners up to $41,800 over 30 years by offsetting power costs and the cost of a roof. It achieves this, according to Tesla, through tax credits, energy savings, and electricity buy-back.

That said, the upfront costs indicate that the Tesla Solar Roof is still only really available to an exclusive market. Based on the analysis presented by Electrek, the average final cost of an average Tesla Solar Roof is $85,000.

Tesla Solar Inverter

The Tesla Solar Inverter is not really an optional part of a Tesla solar system. You must have some kind of an inverter if you are going to harness solar power. This is because the inverter is responsible for converting the power harnessed by the solar panels or solar roof into electricity used by your household appliances.

Tesla was admittedly a little late to the inverter market, opting to allow their early solar consumers to purchase an inverter from a third party. But now that they do have their own inverter, it is undoubtedly the way to go if you are looking for a fully integrated Tesla Ecosystem.

The Tesla Solar inverter comes in two models designed to put out either 3.8 kW or 7.6 kW, and both boast a 97.5% efficiency rating, which puts it on par with the industry standards. The efficiency rating embodies how much of the solar power captured by your system is ultimately turned into useful energy.

The real advantage that the Tesla Inverter holds over third-party inverters is its capability to sync with the Tesla App, allowing users to monitor their energy consumption. Additionally, a 12.5-year warranty backs the Tesla Inverter, and it is usually included in the installation costs associated with either your Tesla Solar Panels or your Tesla Solar Roof.

Tesla Powerwall

The Tesla Powerwall is a storage battery that allows you to capture and store electricity as your solar panels generate it. This addition is recommended if you want to overcome the daylight limitations on your solar system and store energy to be used at night.

The Powerwall is “charged” by the solar panels using the excess electricity generated during the day. It then stores that energy until it’s needed to power things at night or during a power outage.

Tesla Powerwall Features

The Powerwall is among the industry leaders for energy storage, possessing the capacity to store larger energy loads than other battery storage options, 13.5 kWh to be exact. In fact, the Tesla Powerwall was selected to be used in the very first 100% Solar-Battery neighborhood in Australia.

One unexpected feature of the Powerwall is that you don’t necessarily need to have a solar system to use one. The Powerwall can save you money even when you are simply connected to your local energy grid.

This is because electricity prices often fluctuate throughout the day, increasing at night when demand is high. The Powerwall monitors this and “charges” itself when the electricity rate is low; that way, you benefit from the lowest electricity costs for the most extended amount of time.

Another exciting hallmark of the Powerwall is using the Tesla App to customize your Powerwall’s prime directives. The Powerwall has three modes, and each one will achieve a different energy-related goal:

  • Self-Powered Mode: This mode must be used in conjunction with a solar system, but it optimizes the Powerwall to help you reduce your carbon footprint by storing excess electricity until it’s needed, as described above.
  • Backup-Only Mode: This setting will instruct the Powerwall to charge itself either from your solar system or the grid and then retain that electricity until it is needed to compensate for a power outage. This is really useful when you know a storm is coming or if you live in an area that has rolling blackouts.
  • Time-Based Control Mode: This is the setting that allows your Powerwall to draw electricity from the grid when prices are low, as described above.

Cost-wise, a Powerwall will run you cost you about $11,000 out-of-pocket, per battery. But if you are coupling it with a solar system, your tax credits will bring that cost down to about $7,000 per battery after tax credits. Tesla does back this with a 10-year warranty.

Tesla Electric Vehicles and Charger

The premier Tesla products are the Tesla Electric Vehicles (EV); after all, they are what earned Tesla, and Elon Musk, household name recognition. Now Tesla has their own charger to go with it, and this charger, along with its corresponding Tesla EV, are the final elements of the Solar Ecosystem.

Tesla Electric Vehicle (EV)

The Tesla EV is a critical component of Elon Musk’s vision of a Solar Ecosystem because it allows that ecosystem to become mobile and ensures that your transportation and our homes are 100% powered by renewable, sustainable solar energy.

Tesla now offers a few different electric vehicle models, each with its own price point and energy efficiency, but the 2020 Tesla Model 3 SP+ is the most efficient EV on the road today, with its energy consumption clocking in at 239 watt-hours per mile (Wh/mi), which also make it the best vehicle to integrate into your Solar Ecosystem.

Tesla Electric Vehicle Chargers

There are two Tesla EV Charging models:

  • The Mobile Connector: This charger is included in all new Tesla EVs and can be plugged into standard electrical outlets.
  • The Wall Connector: This charger can pair with the Tesla Model S, 3, X, and Y. It is customizable to any power supply making it a suitable charger to include in your Solar Ecosystem.

Having a Tesla Wall Connector is vital if you would like to charge your Tesla EV with solar power, but if you happen to have a Tesla EV, you will probably need a charger no matter how you plan on powering it.

How Much Does It Cost to Charge a Tesla with Solar?

Installing a Tesla Solar System to power your home is one thing, but it is also entirely possible to scale down a Tesla Solar system and just use it to power your Tesla EV. Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer to this question because how much it costs to charge your Tesla with a solar-powered system will depend on factors unique to you. Factors include:

  • How much you drive each day
  • What kind of Tesla EV you have
  • How much daylight you get each day in your area

So, to help you determine how much it would cost to power your Tesla EV using a solar system, we broke the necessary calculations and considerations down into five steps and provided an example:

Find Out How Much Electricity Your Tesla EV Uses Per Mile

The amount of electricity your Tesla EV uses per mile is expressed as Watt-hours per mile (Wh/mi). Think of it like you would a fossil fuel-powered vehicle’s gas efficiency. Your Tesla EV’s electricity efficiency will fluctuate depending on how old your vehicle is, how aggressively you drive, and how far you go.

As mentioned above, the 2020 Model 3 SP+ is currently the most efficient Tesla EV on the market, with a Wh/mi of 239. In contrast, the 2019 Tesla Model S Long Range uses 304 Wh/mi.

It should be easy enough to calculate how much electricity your Tesla EV uses because your Tesla does it for you. All you have to do is look at your dashboard, where you will find a readout of your car’s average Wh/mi for a given period.

Calculate How Much Electricity Your Tesla Uses Each Day

This next calculation is also pretty easy to execute. You’ll want to know how far you drive on a typical day, so pull up Google maps and plug in your daily commute. Figure out how many miles you drive total going to and from work, add any other miles in your daily routine, and voila!

Hint: You can also look at your Tesla’s dashboard to figure this out. Simply charge your vehicle overnight, drive your daily routine and then check to see how many miles you have driven “since last charge.”

Now, grab a pen and paper because we are going to start doing some math.

Take the total number of miles you drive daily and multiply it by your Tesla’s Wh/mi. The number you are now looking at represents your Tesla’s total daily energy consumption in watt-hours (Wh). Pay close attention to the unit because you will need to make sure your units stay consistent throughout your calculations.

Calculate How Many Solar Panels You Need

Now that we know how much energy our Tesla requires daily, let us figure out how many solar panels we need to generate that power.

We know that a Tesla Solar Panel produces 340 watts (W). To figure out how many watt-hours (Wh) it produces each day, you will need to figure out how many hours of sunlight your solar panels will receive. This calculator will do that for you if you plug in your zip code.

Important note: you will want to do the next calculation using the lowest daily peak sun hours for your area so that you can rest assured your Tesla will still charge in the dead of winter. Take the lowest peak daylight hours your area receives and multiply that by your solar panel’s wattage: Daylight hours x watts = Wh. From this, you will know how much energy a single solar panel produces in watt-hours each day (on a bad day).  

Now take your Tesla’s total daily energy consumption (calculated in the previous step) and divide it by the total daily output of a single solar panel as calculated above. That is the number of solar panels you will need (rounding up to the nearest whole number).  

Calculate the Cost of Your Solar System

The best way to accurately calculate the cost of your solar system is to contact Tesla, let them know how many solar panels you need, and they will quote you how much you can expect to pay for the parts and installation of your system, but if we had to guess, this is the formula we would use to calculate it:

(Total Number of Solar Panels Needed x $683) + $7,000 for the Tesla Powerwall + $500 for the Tesla Wall Connector + $500 for Electrician Labor Costs = The Cost of Your Solar System.

Calculate the Final Cost Per Mile

This last step is where we bring it all together. We know from the information above that the Tesla Powerwall comes with a 10-year warranty, so we’ll assume that our solar system will last that long without any extra investment.

With this in mind, let’s calculate how much it will cost per mile to charge our Tesla EV using this solar system.

To do this, we will first need to estimate how many miles we drive per year. You could do this pretty accurately by taking the daily miles you calculated in step two and multiplying it by 365. Then multiply that by 10 to come up with an estimate for the number of miles you will drive during the lifetime of your solar system.

Now to answer your initial question. Use the following formula: Total cost of your solar system ÷ total miles driven per year = total cost per mile to charge your Tesla using solar power.

Example Calculation of Determining Solar Charger Costs

If that was hard to follow, we don’t blame you, so let us walk you through an example. For the sake of this example, let’s pretend that we have a 2019 Tesla Model S Long Range, and we live just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, and commute a total of 32 miles each day.

  1. First, we determine how much energy our Tesla Model S uses per mile. That number, as mentioned above, is 304 Wh/mi.
  2. Nowwe determine how much our Tesla uses per day, 32mi x 304 Wh/mi = 9,728 Wh/mi.
  3. Using the Peak Hour Calculator, we discover that Charlotte receives the least amount of sun in December, with just 4.05 peak hours. So, we multiply that by the 340 W output of a single Tesla Solar panel and discover that our daily output is approximately 1,377 Wh per solar panel. Now we take our Tesla’s daily energy requirement (9,728) and divide it by our solar panel’s worst daily capacity (1,377), and round up to the nearest whole number, to discover that we need eight solar panels to satisfy Tesla’s EV daily energy requirement.
  4. Using the equation proposed above we insert our panel requirement as follows: (8 panels needed x $683) + $7,000 for the Tesla Powerwall + $500 for the Tesla Wall Connector + $500 for Electrician Labor Costs = $13,464 total system cost.
  5. We estimate that we will drive approximately 116,800 miles in 10 years. Take the total cost of our solar system ($13,464) and divide it by our 10-year mileage (116,800).

In the end, we discover that it will cost approximately 11 cents per mile to charge our Tesla using a solar system. And based on the very average scenario used in this example, we feel pretty confident that this is a ballpark estimate for just about anyone looking to charge their Tesla with a solar system.

Benefits of a Tesla Solar Charger Ecosystem

Environmental concerns are among the top motivations to switch to a Solar Power Ecosystem and ditch fossil fuel-based alternatives. Solar power remains one of the most competitive renewable energies in the industry, and it boasts other environmental benefits:

Solar Power Leads to Lower Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Carbon dioxide emissions are the number one contributor to climate change and air pollution. For every fossil fuel vehicle traded in for an electric vehicle, 1.5 million grams of carbon dioxide are diverted away from the atmosphere. To put that into perspective, it’s like erasing the emissions of a flight between New York City and Los Angeles!

Imagine the impact one could have if they switched to an entirely Solar Ecosystem, eschewing the use of fossil fuels entirely.

Solar Power Conserves Water

Fossil fuel production is water-intensive. Just picture how much water is necessary to keep nuclear power plants from overheating, and it can take up to four gallons of water just to produce one gallon of gasoline.

In contrast, solar energy production uses virtually no water to generate electricity and can reduce a home’s water-intensity by 79%!

That means, by using Tesla’s Solar Ecosystem to power your home and your EV, you are going to be reducing water consumption and doing your part to combat water scarcity.

Solar Power Reduces Reliance on Grid Energy and Fossil Fuels

The electricity in our grid comes from several different sources that all work together to meet energy demand. It’s not yet possible to control where the power supplying our homes comes from, even with renewable energy credits and offsets available for purchase.

Switching to a Solar Ecosystem, especially when paired with a storage battery like the Tesla Powerwall, is the only way to reduce our reliance on grid energy and the fossil fuels used to produce grid electricity.

We have all heard that fossil fuels are non-renewable resources, meaning that eventually, they will become scarce; switching to solar energy lessens your reliance on a scarce resource, which ultimately helps you become “energy independent.”

Is the Tesla Solar Charger Ecosystem Right for You? 

Throughout this article, we have discussed the elements, costs, and cost-benefits of a Tesla Solar system, hoping that the information provided will help you decide whether or not you would like to invest in a Tesla Solar Ecosystem for yourself.

To ensure that you are asking yourself all the right questions and have all the information, there are a few final considerations we’d like to bring to your attention regarding Tesla’s solar program. 

Government Incentives

We briefly discussed tax credits available to homeowners that install solar systems to power their homes and vehicles. These government offers are always changing and vary from state-to-state so be sure to do your homework.

The federal tax credits for 2021 amount to 22% of your Solar Ecosystem’s installation costs, which is lower than the tax credits that were available in 2020.

Sun Exposure of Your Home

The importance of sun exposure was demonstrated in our Solar EV charging scenario. The more sun your home receives in a day, the more productive your solar panels will be and the fewer solar panels you will need to implement a productive Solar Ecosystem.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use solar power if you live in a dimly lit area of the world. It just makes a storage battery, like the Powerwall, more critical.

Cost of Solar Panels Pay for Themselves in the Long Run

We mentioned this before, but it’s true! Between the at-the-meter savings you will get and the income you could generate by producing excess electricity, a solar Ecosystem is ultimately a money-making investment.

Eventually, Elon Musk hopes to get to the point where his Tesla EVs and Solar Ecosystems actually generate profit for consumers when they aren’t in use.

Final Thoughts

Tesla’s solar charging system includes three main elements: solar panels (ideally in the form of the Tesla solar roof), a Tesla solar inverter, and a Powerwall battery. Couple this with the Tesla Wall Connector, and you’ll have the ability to charge your Tesla vehicle with power from the sun, allowing you to save money on gasoline and grid electricity costs in the long-run.

Solar power is paving the way to the future, and Tesla is leading the race with the first fully-integrated Solar Ecosystem set up for homeowners. The Tesla Solar Ecosystem may come with a hefty up-front price tag. Still, it will reduce your electricity bill, lower your transportation costs, and even generate income when your system starts to generate excess electricity. All in all, the Tesla Solar Ecosystem is a sustainable investment.

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Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. My daily driver is a Tesla Model 3 Performance. I've learned a ton about Teslas from hands-on experience and this is the site where I share everything I've learned.

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