Tesla owner adds 4000 watt solar panel roof to his Model Y car after company wouldn’t

Who needs Tesla, when you can just do it yourself?

Designers have long dreamt of layering solar panels onto car roofs.

In theory, it sounds like a win-win – it’s not like you’re doing anything else with the space, and it could help power EVs.

While there have been plenty of long-distance races completed by cars with solar elements like this, precious few are road-legal, and the list of actual car manufacturers allowing this sort of option for real customers is vanishingly thin – with Tesla one of the many who don’t.

Antonio Masiello / Contributor / Getty

Elon Musk talked about the idea back in 2017, but concluded it wasn’t cost-effective at that point.

The idea is obvious – the roof of your car is in the sun or natural light all day (unless it’s in a garage) so could be gathering solar energy as you drive to extend your car’s range – it’s literally free energy.

In an attempt to see whether this system could work on a real, drivable ,commuter-friendly car, YouTuber DartSolar took things into his own hands.

His 20-minute video shows how he went from having the idea to actually building a folding-out array of nine solar panels to go on top of their Tesla Model Y.

It’s a fascinating process, involving more than a little engineering and fabrication. This means it’s not exactly a guide if you want to try it yourself, and the results are really interesting.

We can’t pretend they look great when folded out, of course – the panels are squared off, and basically just sit on top of the car like a big plank of wood.

Still, DartSolar’s calculations and experiments suggest that, on a sunny day, he could gain anywhere from 20 to 75 miles of extra range for his Tesla, accounting for different conditions.


That means that people could potentially run their whole commute to and from work without ever using energy from the grid – an exciting prospect for anyone keen on renewable energy.

Of course, how well this kind of thing works would totally depend on where you live – someone living in California will likely get a lot more charge than anyone driving round in Scotland.

Tesla has a cult following, but not everyone is quite so thrilled by Elon Musk’s electric vehicles.

It seems like one of those people is Mario Zelaya, who goes by @supermariozelaya on TikTok.

Last year, he posted about his trials and tribulations with his white $140,000 Tesla – and Zelaya didn’t mince his words, calling the car a ‘piece of trash’.

Tesla Owner Locked Out Of Car After Battery Died
Credit: TikTok / @supermariozelaya
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In TikTok videos, Zelaya said that he was trying to sell the car because the battery died, meaning he was locked out of it.

According to Zelaya, his initial options seemed to be to dismantle the car to get in (which he said he ‘didn’t have time’ to do), or buy a new battery (which he said would cost him $26,000).

He captioned his TikTok video: “$26K for a new battery. Locked out of car. Recalls are needed.”

Zelaya decided instead he wanted to sell the car, but he had one major problem. “I can’t sell the car because the ownership papers are in the car, and I have no way of accessing it,” he said.

Luckily, there was an easy fix and Zelaya went to ServiceOntario – the Canadian verison of the DMV – and paid $30 to get the ownership papers.

In another video, Zelaya confirmed he’d successfully sold the vehicle.

Someone came to pick it up, and managed to turn it on by popping open the front and turning on the power through there.

Smith Collection/Gado / Contributor / Getty

According to Zelaya, his 2013 model experienced water leaking into the battery, causing it to stop working – and he said he’d been in contact with other motorists who’d allegedly experienced something similar.

In the 2012-2020 Model S user manual guide on the Tesla website for the US and Canada, it said that ‘damage caused by water is not covered under warranty’. It also added: “If you leave it unplugged for an extended period, it may not be possible to charge or use Model S without jump starting or replacing the low voltage battery. Leaving Model S unplugged for an extended period can also result in permanent battery damage. If you are unable to charge Model S after attempting to jump start the low voltage battery, schedule a service appointment.”

Tesla isn’t the only car company Zelaya has targeted in his TikToks. In another video, he playfully skewers a bright red Ferrari sports car.

Tesla has hit the headlines recently when, in the middle of December, the company recalled over 2 million vehicles in the US, to fix a defective system that’s supposed to ensure drivers are paying attention when they use the Autopilot mode.

It all comes after the much-hyped Cybertruck finally started being delivered to customers, and is increasingly being seen out in the wild. The pickups have proved divisive – some can’t get over the chunky build and eye-watering prices, whereas others love the futuristic design and the fact it can apparently go from 0 to 60 in 2.6 seconds.

Tesla has been contacted for comment.

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It looks a bit rudimentary at the moment, but we can only hope this sparks a bit of inspiration – and engineers will start thinking about how to make this dream a reality for the rest of us.

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