Introduction: Off-the-Grid Solar Wagon

Picture of Off-the-Grid Solar Wagon

The Solar Wagon can be used as a portable or emergency energy system to charge laptops, cell phones, LED lights, or computer speakers. It is made from a re-purposed garden cart with a custom-built solar panel frame and off-the-grid solar electronics shelf. The project budget ranges from $500-$1500 depending on the materials, tools and solar components that you buy or might already have. If you have not welded or worked on solar electronics before, take a class or collaborate on this project for best results.

For more info on our Solar Charging Station projects and workshops see:
www.SolDesignLab.com
www.facebook.com/soldesignlab
info@soldesignlab.com

Step 1: Getting Started

Picture of Getting Started

Collect all the tools and materials needed for this project.

Build a frame on top of a sturdy steel garden cart to hold the solar panel and electronics (bolt or weld together).

Extra: waterproof the electronics box, make the wagon lockable, add graphics, add a bike hitch.

Material Supply Options

Step 2: Wagon Frame

Picture of Wagon Frame
  • Select a small but sturdy cart with 4 wheels. Consider if you will need to take it apart for transport or storage.
  • Measure and prepare the wagon for the solar frame.
  • Measure and cut the flat bar / angle iron steel /aluminum frame parts to fit your wagon and solar panel.
  • Make sure the angle of the solar panel is your location's latitude (37° in San Francisco).
  • Tools (drill, band saw, welder, grinder, wire strippers, screwdriver, wire crimpers).
  • Paint wagon with an outdoor metal paint (Rust-o-leum).
  • Hardware (1/4-20 1"-2" machine screws, lock washers, bolts).
  • Bolt the frame to the wagon and then bolt the solar panel on top.

Step 3: Electronics Panel / Frame

Picture of Electronics Panel / Frame
  • Measure and cut the steel /aluminum frame parts to fit your wagon and solar electronics board.
  • Weld / bolt frame together with 1” angle.
  • Use 16 gauge perf. steel /aluminum sheet for electronics wall.
  • Add holes to bottom of legs to bolt to wagon floor in 4 places.
  • Use webbing straps to secure the battery -- to the wagon floor.

Step 4: Solar Components

Picture of Solar Components
  • 60 Watt Solar Panel (20-60 watts are best)
  • 12 Volt 35 AMH Sealed AGM Battery
  • USB outdoor socket
  • Sun Saver MPPT 15 Amp charge controller
  • Sun Saver 300 Watt inverter
  • Morningstar Sun Saver remote meter
  • Breakers / bus bar for the solar panel, battery, and inverter (load)
  • LEDs
  • Label maker (label - / + wires)
  • Black and Red wire

*Wire the electronics with the help of a solar electrician or take a solar class
*Review battery safety steps

Step 5: How to Use the Solar Wagon

Picture of How to Use the Solar Wagon
  • Add custom solar info graphics to attract attention and share information on solar.
  • Make sure the wagon is facing South in the direct sun when charging up the battery and that the breakers are switched on.
  • Use a bike lock to keep the wagon secure while charging.
  • Keep the Solar Wagon in a clean dry area when inside.
  • Turn the breakers off when not in use. (Do not drain the battery)
  • Do not leave in the rain without water-proofing the electronics.
  • Bring it to a picnic or event to play music and charge cellphones!
  • Use during power outages.

Step 6:

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Thank you:

Center for Design at Hampshire College and Skillpoint Alliance for grants that have support this project!

Check out the Solar 101 chapters at Skillpoint Alliance.

Step 7:

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Comments

johnowhite (author)2017-07-13

This is a really cool idea....Solar, portable, a good conversation piece.

Comments

For convenience, you might wish to move the inverter and the plug so you have easier access for plugging in the load. Also, from the diagram, it looks like a battery cable does not go directly to the inverter. For this system it will work. Wiring through the charge controller for the load will insure that the battery won't discharge, as most will shut off the load around 10-11 volts. However, directly wiring from the battery to the inverter , with a big breaker, if you wish, makes a lot of sense, here's why. For 300 watts, /12volts, that's 25 Amps, requiring at least 8-10 gauge wire. If your load gets much bigger, the load wire needed won't fit in the controller.

Dr.Bill (author)2015-07-03

And so here it is the Emergency Portable Solar Power Cart with multiple voltages available from 1.5VDC to 117VAC. 80 Watts of panels combined with a SunForce 30A Charge Controller, with room for expansion, and a Xantrex 2000 Watt Sine Wave Inverter. This is a system that has morphed from a system that was IN my apartment in Hawai'i to a cart that can do as much or more than it did back then.

New panels or batteries can be added at any time to power as much as you want.

GOT SHTF Equipment ? I Do. Google Search 'Seven Ridges Solar' for more info.

SparkySolar (author)2015-06-01

very nice

jetboy (author)2015-05-19

I made a model similar to this. My models has two panels a main and an aux with 65 watts and 15 watts. And 2 circuits (main and aux). It only has an 800 watt inverter but has a Faraday cage to protect from an EMP. My only recommendation is an enclosure to protect from sand or water. I love this project

BLR_RAVI (author)2014-08-17

very nice project..nicely made

hyperfocus (author)2014-08-12

Know what this should be called? The Swaggon. :D

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