How to Travel the World Using Only Solar Power

How to Travel the World Using Only Solar Power

How to Travel the World Using Only Solar Power

Introduction

Traveling the world on solar power alone may seem like a daunting task, but with careful planning and the right gear, it is quite possible. In this article, I will provide an in-depth guide on how to travel the world using only solar power.

Choosing the Right Vehicle

The first step is choosing a vehicle that can be easily outfitted with solar panels and energy efficient appliances. The most popular options are:

Vans

  • Pros: Lots of roof space for solar panels. Can be customized to have all necessary amenities. Stealth parking in cities is easier than with large vehicles.

  • Cons: Less space than other options. Limited battery capacity.

School Buses

  • Pros: Massive roof for solar panels. Can fit large battery bank for overnight power. Lots of interior space for amenities.

  • Cons: Harder to park and drive. More expensive to maintain.

RVs/Campervans

  • Pros: Built-in amenities like kitchen and bathroom. Available in many sizes. Easier to drive and park than bus.

  • Cons: Less roof space than bus. Need to be cautious with appliance use to avoid draining battery.

For long-term and full-time travel, a bus or large RV/campervan is likely the best choice. But for shorter trips, a van is easier to manage and stealthier for overnight parking.

Calculating Your Power Needs

Once you’ve chosen a vehicle, the next step is calculating your expected power needs:

  • Basic loads: Lights, laptops, phone charging. Allows for maintaining basic functions.

  • Major loads: Cooking appliances, mini-fridge, hot water heater, AC. Biggest power consumers.

  • Average daily load: Estimate hours per day for each appliance. Multiply by wattage to get total watt-hours (Wh) needed.

  • Peak demand: Max watts needed at one time, for sizing electrical system.

  • Battery capacity: Total Wh needed during non-sun hours where solar can’t provide power.

Create a spreadsheet with all loads and runtimes estimated. This will determine the solar array size and battery capacity needed. Leave buffer room for future extras.

Designing the Solar Power System

The solar power system must reliably meet your calculated loads. Here are the main components:

Solar Panels

  • Output: Minimum of 200 watts per panel. More panels = more power.

  • Type: Monocrystalline panels are most efficient in smaller spaces.

  • Tilting: Tilt panels for optimal sun exposure based on your travels.

  • Positioning: Maximize roof coverage with panels for total output.

Charge Controller

  • Regulates power from solar panels to battery bank. Prevent overcharging.

Inverter

  • Converts DC from batteries to standard AC power for appliances. Size for peak demand.

Battery Bank

  • Chemistry: Lithium best for power vs weight. Lead acid cheaper but very heavy.

  • Capacity: Size for needed nighttime power storage. Adds weight.

  • Wiring: Use proper wire gauges to minimize losses. Fuse all connections.

Monitoring System

  • Displays battery state, solar input/output, loads. Helps manage use.

Living on the Road

Once your solar powered vehicle is ready, it’s time to hit the road! Here are some tips for traveling while relying solely on the sun:

  • Track energy use – Monitor system frequently to understand your consumption. Don’t let battery get too low.

  • Plan route for sun – Ensure you’ll have solar access at stops. Park facing south when stationary.

  • Conserve power – Limit major loads like AC, cooking appliances etc. Stick to basics when battery is low.

  • Use power intermittently – Don’t have fridge on 24/7. Only charge devices periodically.

  • Stay in warmer climates – Solar efficiency drops in cold weather. Seek sunshine and plan travel accordingly.

  • Have backup plans – Know where to charge vehicle if solar input is insufficient over days. Have a generator or extra battery if needed.

Final Thoughts

Traveling sustainably on solar power alone is an ambitious goal, but can absolutely be achieved with diligent planning and preparation. Determine your energy needs, design an efficient solar system, and learn to conserve power on the road. With the right knowledge and gear, you can travel the world using only the boundless energy of the sun!