July 29th, 2020 by Kyle Field
Having built its business around high quality, efficient solar inverters, SolarEdge was a late entrant to the world of electric vehicle chargers, but after spending some time with the SolarEdge Smart EV Charger, the company is already a serious contender in the space.
Durable, Future-Proofed EV Charging
Most residential electric vehicle service equipment (EVSE, also known as an EV charger) are little more than adapters that plug into the home electrical network with an adapter to charge the vehicle. Charging an EV is not rocket science, but because they consume such a large chunk of power, the potential exists to do a lot more with them. Because electric vehicles consume such a large chunk of power, there is an opportunity to optimize the energy consumed by a home by adding intelligence to EV chargers. SolarEdge’s leadership in solar inverters positioned it well to inject intelligence into the world of EV chargers and that’s exactly what it did.
SolarEdge sent us one of its standalone Smart EV Chargers* for us to run through the paces, and I have to say, I’m impressed and even more convinced that inverters are the most exciting part of the renewable home of the future right now. Right off the bat, it is clear this thing is built to last. The thick 25′ long charging cable looks like it could withstand decades of use and abuse in a garage or public charger installation, and the thick case on the unit itself looks extremely durable. If anything, it’s a bit too thick and my wife commented that she preferred other chargers simply because of their more flexible, easier to manipulate charging cables. We installed the unit in our garage for the test, but it is also rated for outdoor use, which is fantastic.
Disclaimer: SolarEdge installed a Smart EV Charger for us free of charge for the purposes of this review.
Our Tesla Solar Roof system came with two 5-kilowatt Delta inverters that don’t seem to have any connectivity to speak of, so we were not able to test the integration of the Smart EV Charger with SolarEdge Inverters, but that is perhaps the most exciting functionality of this unit. When installed in a home with a solar system powered by SolarEdge inverters, the Smart EV Charger talks to the inverters and can dynamically, intelligently charge an EV with the excess solar generation from the rooftop system. The SolarEdge Smart EV Charger builds on the fundamental premise that solar and electric vehicles are complimentary technologies. 40% of EV owners have solar installed and the new EV charger gives solar installers and EV owners the option to install an EV charger alongside a new or existing solar installation. For solar installers, it could represent an upsell opportunity, while giving owners the ability to add an EV charger at a lower cost.
At the center of the unit, a bright LED light ring makes it easy to confirm at a glance that the vehicle is charging with a ring of green lights. Alternately, if there’s an issue, the LED lights turn red, orange, or even purple, depending on what’s happening.
Installing the Smart EV Charger was very straightforward. It comes with a wired pigtail on the end, so installing it was a simple matter of mounting it to the wall near an appropriate 50 amp outlet and plugging it in. Installing it on a 50 amp circuit ensures the unit is able to pull its peak of 40 amps, pushing 9.6 kilowatts of power to the car. For safety, EV chargers should only draw 80% of the maximum current a circuit is rated for, so be sure to take this into account when having a new circuit installed or selecting an EV charger for your home.
After physically installing the unit, it wants to be paired to a local wifi connection. This is done from the SolarEdge app and requires just a basic configuration. I had to walk through the process a few times for it to take, but it was still only a matter of a few minutes before it was connected to the ‘net.
The SolarEdge App
The My SolarEdge app lets the homeowner view the current charging session, stop and start a session, review charging history, and set up more advanced features like scheduled charging and solar charging (where applicable).
We have two EVs in our household, a 2014 Mercedes B-Class Electric Drive and a Tesla Model 3, and we were able to charge both on the new charger at its peak power of 40 amps / 9.6 kW. Owners can label each car in the household if there are more than one, and the app recognizes which car is plugged in for tracking purposes.
It’s not a complex app and does exactly what you need, with few frills to confuse the process. More advanced users have the ability to export charging session history, if desired. That’s helpful for those looking to track actual power consumption by their vehicles over time, whether it be to keep track of the fuel bill or to otherwise.
Driving on Sunshine
The SolarEdge Smart EV Charger works fine as a standalone EV charger, but it really starts to get exciting when installed alongside a SolarEdge-powered solar system. In this configuration, it can charge an EV using just the excess solar generation coming from the roof, minimizing or eliminating the need to feed power back into the grid.
For areas where feed-in tariffs make feeding power back to the grid a less attractive option or don’t allow it at all, this can be a huge benefit. For homeowners trying to maximize the consumption of power generated on-site behind the meter, it directly contributes to the vision of a more sustainable home. I mean, who doesn’t want to drive using just the power of the sun?
What Works & What Doesn’t?
Feel free to use my Tesla referral code for your Tesla Solar purchase if you’re inclined to see if they are a good fit. Currently, you’ll get a $100 reward for using a referral code like mine. If you use my code (https://ts.la/kyle623), I also get a reward from Tesla which help us be more financially sustainable here at CleanTechnica.