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Hybrids: 2007 White Honda Civic Hybrid, 2013 Fit EV
DIY: Solar Panel Installation
Disclaimer: Do this at your own risk! I am not responsible if you injure yourself or others, ruin your car, or void your warranty in any way during or as a result of this installation.
DO NOT attempt to wire a solar panel to your IMA battery. You will void your warranty. A shock from the IMA battery can kill you. Always use extreme caution when working on or near an IMA battery or IMA components.
This installation is on a 2007 Civic Hybrid. Your car may vary.
Let me begin by explaining how this works. The solar panel takes energy from sunlight (obviously) and transfers it to the small 12V battery, keeping it topped off. This is beneficial in a Civic Hybrid, because it does not have an alternator and the 12V battery is charged by the 158V battery. Any energy that is transfered from the 158V to the 12V is energy that could be used to power the electric motor. The solar panel will reduce the amount of energy being taken from the 158V by the 12V, thus (slightly) improving FE. In addition, keeping the 12V battery topped off increases the life of the battery.
This install would be beneficial in a non-hybrid if you are frequently noticing that your battery needs charging, or you just want to keep your battery topped off and increase its life. However, installing this on a regular civic will be different.
Step One: Parts
1. Solar panel. Be sure that it has a diode, to prevent it from sucking power from the battery when there is no sunlight. Also, be sure that it can be used while the engine is running, as this is a permanent install.
2. An in-line fuse. I used a 1/2 Amp. Although the solar panel should have a fuse in it and this fuse is not necessary for operation of the solar panel, I highly recommend installing one of these. Why? Without it, it is possible to void your warranty. In other words, just spend the extra 2.50 to make Honda happy.
3. Wire- I used 18 gauge, but use whatever works for you.
4. Some type of quick connect/disconnects for the wire. Again, Honda wants to be able to disconnect any of your modifications easily if they need to service the car.
5. Velcro, to attach the solar panel and easily remove it.
1. A switch, to turn the solar panel on and off.
2. An LED light, to show the driver that the solar panel is charging the battery. Most solar panels have this directly on the panel, but I put one in the front of the car.
3. Double-sided 3M padding, to angle the solar panel towards the window.
4. Adhesive wire clips, to hold the wire in place.
Step Two: Mount the panel
I mounted mine in the back window, I think this is the best place for it. I velcro-ed it on. You can use 3M double sided foam to angle it out the window a little if you want.
To get the wire behind the seat you have two options.
1- (for the cleaner look) drill a hole under the solar panel and run the wire through it, behind the seat.
2- (for the person who doesn't want to drill a hole in their car) Run the wire from the solar panel, under the child seat restraint cover, and back behind the seat.
Step Three: Connect the wires to the solar panel and ground
My Solar Panel came with two connectors- alligator clips and a 12V adaptor. I removed the alligator clips and connected the wires, creating an easy way to unplug the system if necessary.
The ground wire can be connected to a ground behind the seat (will differ in non-hybrids). You do not need to remove the seat, but just pull back the cushioning on the drivers side a little.
Step four: Run the positive wire to the front of the car. Pretty self-explanatory, but just remove the four bottom wall covers on the drivers side from under the back seat, all the way to the fuse panel. The rear-most panel just snaps out. The center panel (covering the seat belt) is a little more complicated. To remove it, you need to pull off the weather stripping around the panel (don't worry, it goes back on easily). For the drivers panel (covering trunk release), you will need to unlock the trunk release. Next, remove the plastic keyhole covering. There will be a phillips-head screw. After removing that screw, pull the cover up and it will snap out. The frontmost cover (under the fuse panel) snaps out pretty easily.
After that, just run the wire to the front. To connect the wire to the car, you can use adhesive wire clips. They are not necessary, but make they can help keep it a little bit organized.
Step Five: Mount the fuse
This is very easy. Just connect one end of the fuse holder to the positive wire that we've been running, then connect the other end to more wire, that we can continue to run to the front of the car. You can mount this anywhere you want. I chose to do it towards the front, for easier access.
(if you do not want to install a switch or LED, skip to step 8)
Step Six: Connect a switch. Depending on what switch you have, connection will be different. However, it should be pretty easy. Just connect the switch to any portion of the wire you deem convienient. In my case, I connected the switch and LED to a wire that I ran to the black panel under the steering wheel. I used quick disconnects where the wires ran, so I can easily remove the panel when needed.
Step Seven: Install the LED. Depending on which LED you have, connection will be different. Basically, just connect the LED in series like you have with the fuse and switch. To make the switch and LED accessible, I drilled small holes in the black panel and stuck the LED and switch through their holes.
The LED and switch, fully installed.
Step Eight: Connect the positive wire to the battery.
NOTE: Before you do this step, use a multimeter to make sure that all your connections are good and that your solar panel is giving a charge.
So you don't have to connect the wire directly to the battery, just connect it to an open fuse port. You will want to use one that it always on, even if the car is off (so your car can charge when sitting in the parking lot). To see which ones are live, turn the car off and check each port with a multimeter. In my case (and probably yours) the bottom terminal is the positive. Place the positive multimeter cable on that, and the negative on any grounding point. For me, fuse 7 (and I think 5 and 6) was live while the ignition was off. Use a fuse tap to securely connect the wire to the fuse. I could not find a fuse tap that fit, so I just placed the wire between the two positive fuse terminals. This is only temporary and I recommend that you install yours in a more permanent and safer fashion.
Step Nine: Put your car back together.
Put the wall coverings back on (opposite of how you took them off) and watch your battery charge!