Car makers face the challenge of keeping car batteries alive while transporting vehicles from the factory to their dealers. Realising the value of solar energy in dealing with this challenge, Volkswagen (VW) included solar-panel battery chargers with automobiles shipped from manufacturing plants to distant dealer locations. When the cars arrive at the dealers' lots, batteries do not need to be boosted or replaced, which reduces costs. In 2006, Volkswagen commissioned ICP Solar to manufacture its current thin-film automotive sun-powered battery chargers.
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Features and Operation
The older VW solar panels were designed to be plugged into a cigarette lighter port or an accessory 12V jack. A lighter port can be installed if none was incorporated within the vehicle. The car's ignition should be turned off before using the panel charger. The panel is placed between the dash and the windshield and fastened in place by four suction cups. When the panel is plugged, it keeps the battery fully charged while the car is not in use. The cigarette-lighter connector has a diode bridge that prevents the battery from draining at night. The panel chargers are recommended to be unplugged before using the vehicle.
The newer ICP sun-powered chargers were supplied with ODB2 connectors and came equipped with charge controllers. The input ports for these ICP chargers are located under the driver's side dashboard on the left side of the brake pedal. The ODB2 connectors can also be converted to a DC jack or alligator clips.
The VW solar-panel chargers are intended for battery maintenance by "trickle" charging car batteries to compensate for the battery's self discharge and the power drawn by the car and its related electronics when idle. Older versions of the VW solar car battery charger are rated with a maximum power of 3.2W with a voltage of 18.8V and 170 ma current, while the ICP versions are rated at 4W with amperage of 235 ma.
These VW solar panels are labelled with a manufacturer part number of 1C0915687D and usually come free with Volkswagen cars. They are available from VW dealers or online shops such as eBay. Prices range from £6 to £22, with the ICP versions costing more than the older versions. Cigarette-lighter connectors are available at about £1.30 for cars with no built-in cigarette-lighter sockets.
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