Mobile solar systems are perfect for smaller camping vehicles with little free roof space and as a supplement to a solar power systems on the camping vehicle. You can put them in the sun while your mobile home is in the shade and you can always point them towards the sun and thus generate a good solar yield, especially in winter. Two systems are available for this: a solar case or our favourite: the foldable solar module.
What is a solar suitcase?
A solar suitcase is a mobile solar power generator system that looks like a suitcase. So the name says it all here. It often consists of two solar panels that are connected with a hinge and thus form a kind of suitcase. A solar controller is usually also integrated, as well as a connection cable for the battery. The controller converts the solar current coming from the solar cells into the correct charging current for the connected battery. The successors to the solar suitcases are the foldable solar panels, which we can really recommend. Solar cases are useful if you have a small budget. You save 100-300 euros compared to the foldable solar panel.
What is a foldable solar panel?
A foldable solar module is like a solar suitcase 2.0. It consists of a very robust bag, in which up to 3 solar panels are incorporated. It has a connection for a cable to which a solar controller is connected. This further development is significantly lighter and more flexible. You can also place such a solar module behind the pane, for example. This is hardly possible with a bulky solar case. You save weight, space and are much more flexible in use. We use a flexible, foldable solar module ourselves and are absolutely delighted with it. It can always be aligned to the sun and thus generate a lot of solar power with a small area.
What is the advantage of portable solar systems?
Compared to permanently installed solar systems on the roof of a mobile home or a caravan, mobile solar systems have two decisive advantages:
They can be used immediately and without assembly, are therefore independent of the vehicle and can be used in the mobile home, by car or in the gazebo.
They can also always be aligned to face the sun. This means that higher electricity yields are possible and the mobile home or caravan can stand in the shade while the module is set up in the sun. This is a huge advantage, especially in summer.
Better alignment to the sun
Solar panels (such as big power or small solar panel) provide the most energy when the sun’s rays fall on them at a 90-degree angle. This can be realized on a mobile home roof by mounting the modules so that they can be opened and rotated. The right holders that do this automatically are rare and relatively expensive. If you do it manually, you’ll have to climb around on the roof, which isn’t without its dangers. Therefore, most modules are simply mounted lying down. Mobile solar systems, on the other hand, can be set up in such a way that the sun shines on them at a 90-degree angle. They can be easily tracked throughout the day and can thus always deliver maximum energy. A solar case with 100 watts can therefore replace two horizontally mounted 100 watt solar panels on the roof. For example, we installed 2 x 100 watt modules on the roof and also included a foldable solar module. So we can sometimes stand in the shade in the summer and still produce electricity and charge the batteries with all three modules in the winter.
Foldable solar panel protects against heat
Another advantage of the foldable solar module is its flexible usability. For example, when we go hiking, we simply place the solar module behind the windshield from the inside. It is protected against theft, produces solar power at the same time and absorbs a large part of the solar radiation. So it keeps the interior cooler. Heat protection, perfect sun alignment and flexibility make a foldable solar module the ideal addition to the two solar panels on our mobile home roof.
Connection to the on-board or starter battery
Our foldable solar module supplies an open-circuit voltage of around 22 volts. If I connected it directly to our battery, I would have to constantly monitor the charging process and disconnect the battery as soon as the charging voltage was reached. Once the charge goes down again, I would have to reconnect the solar panel. That’s annoying. And if I was distracted and forgot to disconnect, the battery would eventually be destroyed.
A solar controller is required
A solar charge controller is therefore clamped between the solar module and the 12v lithium battery. This ensures the automatic disconnection and connection of the battery and charges it with the ideal characteristic. With such a charge controller, the battery can remain permanently connected without being destroyed. We already have a charge controller in the mobile home due to the solar panels permanently mounted on the roof and simply connected the portable module there. If you buy a portable solar panel of any type, you must first check whether your existing solar regulator can handle the power of another panel. Or you make sure that a charge controller is included.
How much power do I need?
The most common indicator for solar systems is the specification of the maximum output. It is specified in the unit Wp. This stands for “Watt Peak”. It indicates the maximum electrical power output of a solar module under standard test conditions. In practice, however, these are rarely achieved. However, this key figure is well suited for comparison. Our foldable module delivers 100 Wp. This results in a yield of up to 50 Ah in summer in Germany when it tracks the sun. A 100 Ah battery can therefore be recharged halfway in one day. This makes it possible to stand independently for many days when the sun is shining.
The charge controller
You can either connect a mobile solar system directly to the existing charge controller in the vehicle or buy a set with a charge controller. I recommend an MPPT charge controller. This uses a special technique to always charge your battery in the best possible way. This is how you get even more out of solar energy. Very inexpensive systems often only have a PWM charge controller with them, which gives you up to 30% less power when charging. I recommend that you spend the extra charge on an MPPT controller.
Where can I buy mobile solar systems?
At our partner Renogy solar kits Shop you can buy mobile solar systems in different variations.
How does a mobile solar system work?
A mobile solar system is a portable solar panel combined with a charge controller for charging batteries. You can just fold it up or fold it and take it with you. Nothing needs to be permanently installed.
If your budget is very limited, then a classic solar case is right for you. These can be bought very cheaply from many manufacturers. If flexibility and weight are important to you, then a foldable solar panel is right for you.