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Solar Charging For The Rc Hobby

After almost a year of planning my solar rig is built and functional. Lets start at the begining with the planning,. I originally started off...
By murankar, Mar 28, 2017 | Updated: May 13, 2017 | | |
  1. murankar
    After almost a year of planning my solar rig is built and functional. Lets start at the begining with the planning,. I originally started off with a deep cycle battery from Home Depot for boats. After further research what I needed was a golf cart battery. That set me back about $75 USD but thats fine because I still ended up under the cost for a generator. My purpose for this article is to explain what I did to build my system not to explain what all this stuff is. Now if anyone wishes to ask me questions about this system just ask. I will do my best to explain what I know but my knowledge is limited. Google might suite you better.

    My system consists of :
    • 2 6V 227 amp hour golf cart batteries
    • 1 100v 6 Amp (Max ouput) Solar panel
    • 1 Charge controller
    • 2 Solar cables
    • Amp wire kit
    • and other materials that were added later.
    LiPo Charging Station
    • Revolectrix PowerLab PL6
    • Revolectrix Bump Conctroller for the PL# serise chargers
    • Progresive RC Modular Para Boards (solder your own connector style) x2
    • Progressive RC Binding Posts X4 Red, X4 Black
    I don't have a link for the batteries, I went to bulldog battery and got 2 store brand batteries to suite my needs.

    The batteries are a crucial part to your system. Take the time and buy what you can afford. You will need at least 2 batteries for a 12v system. You can go to 24v but then you will need to double your batteries and you will need 2 12v solar panels. So concider what you want or need. If your battery has cold cranking amps but are deep cycle , do not get them they will not work for this application. What this means is that the battery is not designed for continuous high amp draws. Cold cranking batteries are designed to provide a short term burst of high amps and then taper off to a lower level. 6v golf cart batteries are ideal for something like this. These batteries are designed for long term high amp output.

    Your solar panel is going to be your next important investment. There are three types of panels:
    • Thin film (i.e. Harbour freight 45W complete system, least efficeint and not woth the mone).
    • Monocrystaline is more expensive and more effecient over thin film and has a longer life span
    • Polycrystaline is the most expensive but outperforms the Mono panel and tend to be slightly smaller than Mono panels because of their efficiencies.
    I went with 1 polycrystaline 12v panel for my setup because of the cost. I got one for right now but I may upgrade to 2 and run them in parallel. While a 24v system would be nice I don't need 24V right now. My other use for this system works better on 12v also.


    You will need a charge controller for this system to work. I went with a basic PWM charge controller because an MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) controller would be overkill for this setup. MPPT controllers are better suited for home applications where the solar systems are bigger. All I have is a 100W system so I don't have a need for MPPT. Not to say I wont get one I just don't need one right now. Your charge controller will be the brains of your system. It will track the solar power coming in, the voltage state of the batteries, provide power to a constant load and possibly provide power for things like USB and 5v barrel connectors. Charge controllers will detect any issues in your system, now this will be specific to your charge controller. Mine will do some detecting for me.



    Lets get this puppy all hooked up. I used a cheap amp install kit from Walmart. I used a 100 amp fuse between the two batteries. Should something go bad between the 2 batteries the fuse should blow and shut down the system. For the 12v leads I ran the 8 AWG wires off the battery terminals. I terminated the red and black wires into their own fuse blocks which are fused at 30 amps each. The fuse blocks are 1 in and 2 out. this allows for two items being tied into the system. I also had to buy 2 sets of battery terminal clamps from Auto Zone. For the charge controller I ran some 14 AWG wire from the 12v battery terminals to the charge controller. Then I snipped one end off of each solar cable, stripped back the insulation and mounted the wires into the solar panel input terminals on the charge controller. Be very aware of which cable is positive and which is negative. I could run a constant load but my batteries need all the power I can get to them.

    In the end you will not need as much as I have. One thing to look at is the solar panel. Will you be able to hual a panel in your vehicle to accomplish task? At this point in testing I am not sure how many charge cycles I can get on this system. My prediction at this point is that I will ber able to spend the day at the field and not have to worry much, if at all. I feel confident that I can get an entire day at the field with ou the panel. I'll still take it but I dont think i'll need it.

    Big Thank you to Chellee for helping me complete this system and helping me make this come true.

    Parts List:



    https://www.walmart.com/ip/Scosche-680W-8-Gauge-Wiring-Kit-for-Single-Amps/14667122

    Take a look at my final setup picture to see what I did.

    Google Album

    https://goo.gl/photos/G78xE6PrQkzAC69S9



    My goal is to follow this up with some video. We shall see how things go.



    Test 1 Sunday April 23, 2017





    Test one ended today (20170430) with a total of 9 flight pack cycles and one RX pack cycle, with maybe 10 if i pushed it. For this test I found out that I can get about 9 flights without a solar panel on hand. If I leave the house with three fully charged packs, head to the field I should see about 12 flights without a solar panel.

    This is not enough data for me. I want to really test out how many back to back flights I can get in one day. This first test was not done on the same day but over 8 days. My next test will be how many cycles Can I get in one day. My guess will be about 11 or 12.

    The flight packs that I used are 4 Pulse Ultra 3000 45C pack and 2 Pulse Ultra 3300 45C packs. My RX pack is something like 1250 30C Pulse RX pack.

    Here are some photos of what I am attempting to do. This will be my permanent charging setup. Not sure how I will handle the pl6 and bump controller plus the para boards. Still planning that.



    IMAG0956.jpg
    I just finished building the shelf in my Nissan Rogue (in case some of you are wondering.) Nothing fancy just a piece of 1/2 inch Oak Plywood and some pine 1 X 2.5 X 72 inches cut to needed lengths.


    IMAG0957.jpg



    IMAG0962.jpg



    IMAG0963.jpg
    This is the two 6v golf cart batteries that are tied in series. This is where I used that wire from the amp install kit from WalMart. The install kit brand is Scorch


    IMAG0960.jpg
    This is my PWM charge controller for the Solar Panel and my PL6. I was playing around with locations for the PL6.


    IMAG0965.jpg


    IMAG0961.jpg
    This is just an in process shot of the layout to this point.

    IMAG0968.jpg
    This is how the main battery leads will connect to the para board through the binding posts. This part of the modular para board connects to the charger via XT90 or 60, I can not remember. I finally settled on how the binding posts were going to be mounted.

    IMAG0970.jpg
    This is the modular balance boards from Progressive RC. Just showing how i'll connect my batteries to the binding posts. I made the connectors leads for charging.

    IMAG0971.jpg
    Everything is hooked up and powered up. My VControl is in its final storage place

    IMAG0972.jpg
    Final layout with everything hooked and ready to go.

    Today 20170513 I got a video update for this article. Sorry about the video being sideways. This is my first video on this new phone. Shortly after I started filming my phone rings and text message goes off. Try to ignore that. When I get the chance i will retake the video.

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    murankarsgirl and sneezy007 like this.

Comments

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  1. murankar
    I have been on this setup now for a couple months and have done a few days out with it. I have finally mounted the panel to the roof of the Rouge. I built a wood frame to attach to it, mostly to keep the metal panel frame from scratching the car. then I ratchet strapped it to the luggage rack. Just parking the car or driving down the highway I get a steady 3.6 amps to the charge controller. When at the field I can improve the output by taking it off the roof and proping it up on the two leggs I attached. They rotate down and I can adjust the panel to get the best output.

    1) I will not power a circular saw with my inverter, it moves then trips the inverter. But it will handle a vibrating palm sander.

    2) 1 Panel is not enough to keep up with a day of fl;ying on my battery bank size. I would need to either get 2 more batteries or 1 more panel and the required cables.

    3) The fun factor is really high. I enjoy talking to people about the setup.
  2. murankar
    I ahve updated the article with the latest info. I completed test one today and will be doing test two during the wekend. I would love to get more data points with the amount of flight pack cycles without the panel replaceing power.
  3. murankarsgirl
    Impressive as always! I love how this project turned out!
      murankar likes this.
  4. bigone5500
    Should be MPPT.

    So how long does the setup last when charging large batteries? Does it take a while to build up power lost from the charge cycle?
    1. murankar
      Short answer I am not sure. Each deep cycle is 227 amp hours each. My packs are at most 3.3 amp hours each. Then account for the charger using power and the charge controller.
    2. murankar
      Short answer I am not sure. Each deep cycle is 227 amp hours each. My packs are at most 3.3 amp hours each. Then account for the charger using power and the charge controller.
  5. murankar
    Actually I have 4 4s packs, 7 3s packs 2 12s stick packs 3000 mah and 1 12s stick pack at 3300 mah.

    I want to be able to go out and fly at any field that is legal to fly at and not worry about power. Plus the system will be used while camping to some degree.

    After looking at generators with their initial cost and upkeep cost i thought solar would be cheaper in the long run. Plus it's green. For the record I am not a global warming nut case. I like free power.
    1. DMartin_nj
      ahhhh yeah I use my lipo charger, it had 12volt hookups so I can use my car. I also purchased a power inverter to hook up as well in case I need 120 v power for anything. But yes solor is good too and very handy, I would to get into that for my home someday... It is becoming very popular these days...
    2. murankar
      Solar is very lucrative for the home. Yes it does cost some money up front but it can pay you back in a few years. For the hobby though this setup could easily add portable power to a trailer or some other type of portable work shop.

      I am thinking of doing a trailer at some point. I want all my hobby stuff to be in one location that I can control.
      DMartin_nj likes this.
    3. bigone5500
      Nice setup you have! I've always liked solar setups. You are flying your RC models because the sun is shining...very cool!
      DMartin_nj likes this.
  6. DMartin_nj
    Wait... I have to ask :) You purchased a solor system to charge your RC batteries? LOL.... You must have thousands of RC LiPo's LoL
  7. vyrnguy
    Very nice.

    We have solar @ home 3 Kilowatt system, using Sunpower 300Watt panels. It's awesome.