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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Prius Travels Thought - Solar

My solar on my truck camper is better than what I thought.  I am so happy not having to run the engine to get the power I need to keep my Engel fridge, TV, Fantastic fans, and charge things.

This is a no worry system by now.  It hmjust does its job every day.  I have to see how it works when I get back easy but now it thrilled.

When I designed and installed solar on my friend’s RAV4 to charge her Goal Zero, I knew from my Prius Campervan days that having to run the engine on the Prius or hang my 60 watt solar panel was a pain to do and think about.

I told her that if I learned one thing from my Prius Travels was to put solar on the roof and let it do its thing, whether driving or parked the solar is doing its thing.  You don’t have to worry about driving our putting out a panel.

She is also thrilled with this decision and glad I talked her into buying the roof rack and with my design to hang the solar between the cross bars for a very stealthy look.

Back to my Prius.  If I was to go back to the Prius dwelling I would get the Toyota roof rack and install a solar panel the same way I did for my friend and I wouldn’t have to run the Prius to charge my house battery, just to cook, heat, or cool.



  1. Thinking about installing solar on my Prius. Looking forward to your experience. - fred

    1. Fred,

      I which I had installed a fixed solar panel now that I have installed one on my froend’s RAV4 and have seen how well it has worked out. By worked out I mean no idling of the car to charge the house battery.

      If you decide to add solar I’ll answer your questions.


    2. Brent, I love to keep the Prius a lot longer but I have power hungry gadgets to charge so I would need to install at least a 50ah or higher LiFePo battery on the floor behind the driver seat.

      Also need a solar panel that is adjustable/removable to face the sun and maybe transfer solar setup to a van or SUV. I want to avoid drilling any holes on the roof so I'll probably run the wiring through the window. I also want to use flexible solar panels and avoid using roof racks but keeping them secured during movement would be an issue.

      Based on the above parameters, what would you improve on wiring ingress; recommended solar panel type and how to secure it on the roof without a rack; and future transfer of solar setup onto a Promaster van or Rav4 Hybrid?

      Thanks in advance for your advise.


    3. Fred,

      Thanks for the comments. When I started using my FWC camper on my Tacoma I upgraded to a 50ah Bioenno LiFePo4 from my 30 Ah battery.

      It’s small and light and I run my Engel fridge 24x7 and charge 2 phones at night and may run my 400 watt inverter at night to charge my two-way radios. By 10 am I’m already fully charged with my 170 watt fixed solar panel. If you are sure of your ah needs then that is good.

      As for solar panels I originally thought like you That flex panels on the Prius was the way to go. I no longer believe this as my Goal has always been to not have any of my mods ever impact the resale of the car.

      My friend with the RAV4 was my test case that you can hang a hard sided solar panel between the roof rack rails and it doesn’t draw attention. It blends in. I would figure in your calculations for solar wattage if you can’t get the solar you need on the Prius roof why not supplement charging from the Prius in ready mode. This is how I charged my Prius house battery before solar. I went to solar to reduce the Ready mode charge method.

      As for angling the solar panel there appears that there is a 10 - 20% benefit from doing this in January from my tests. I feel that if your panel can be sized to work in January and meet your needs then it will also work to get you by on cloudy days. I’ve noticed active solar charging at a low level on cloudy days. Any Ah no matter how small helps.

      As for wiring I my friend buy the MC4’s to the thin Goal Zero wiring/connectors adapter and ran it down the side door tucking it under the doors rubber gasket before entering car to eliminate moisture traveling along the wire.

      My FWC solar panel I changed the MC4 wiring out to SAE.

      My friends system is completely transferable to her next vehicle.

      Keep us posted on what you do.