How We Helped GEM Design a Custom Solar Solution for their Low-Speed Electric Vehicles

Posted on 04/27/2023 at 10:11 by Seth Hansen


A gray and black GEM car with a custom solar panel on top and a blue geometric shape background


The Low-Speed Vehicles (LSVs) market continues to grow as individuals, families, college campuses, theme parks, and resorts opt for more efficient and environmentally conscious ways to get around. Increasingly these vehicles are even becoming the primary means of transportation.


Couple in a GEM car buckling up and getting ready to drive.


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What is a Low-Speed Vehicle?


Man driving a GEM car on the road


A Low-Speed Vehicle (LSV) is a street-legal, four-wheeled electric vehicle with a top speed of 25 mph and a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 3,000 lbs.


Most states allow LSVs to drive on roads marked 35 mph or less. Low-speed vehicles are typically electric, with a range of about 30 miles (source:


How Do You Charge Away From Home?


GEM car charging


To get the most value from an LSV, you need flexible means to charge and maintain your batteries.


That’s where solar can make a difference.


“This Earth Month, we’re introducing a new solar panel option to power GEM electric vehicles with renewable energy,” said Joe Kenney, Engineering Director, Waev. “Sustainability has been at the core of GEM for more than 20 years and we’re dedicated to providing our customers – both individuals and businesses – with more sustainable ways to move.”


Why Portable Solar Matters for LSVs


Sun hitting a solar panel charging a battery


GEM values sustainability and the unique ability of solar energy to provide convenient charging, energy independence, and extended range.

Searching for a Custom Solar Manufacturer


Cobot robotic arm placing a Maxeon solar cell


Last March, GEM began looking for a solar partner to help design their next generation of panels for their vehicles.


They were looking for a partner who could create a custom design for GEM and commit to delivering volume orders on time.


Upon discovering PowerFilm met these criteria, the teams soon kicked off the design and manufacturing exploration phases.


The Custom Solar Design Process


120W GEM Car Solar Panel Drawing


GEM and PowerFilm teams met regularly in the following weeks and months, walking through the various options, approaches, and advantages and drawbacks of different designs.


To quickly design a solution to perfectly fit GEM cars PowerFilm received an e4 vehicle and manufactured an initial prototype using the car. This increased efficiency during the design process and allowed for in-house testing of solar performance.


After reviewing several options to increase manufacturing throughput and simplify inventory and ordering for GEM, the teams agreed on a modular approach based on a custom-designed 120W panel.


The New Custom Solar Panel for GEM cars.


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This custom panel features high-efficiency Maxeon solar cells, a rugged UV-resistant and waterproof ETFE encapsulation stack, sturdy but lightweight fiberglass, which adds little weight to the vehicle, and automotive-grade wrapped custom-length cabling. The solution maximizes the solar capacity for each vehicle in the lineup and features two 120W panels for e4s and three for e6s and eLXDs.  


Once the concept was solidified, the design was refined over a few iterations. Leveraging GEM’s expertise in metalwork, PowerFilm’s manufactured 120W modules connect into a custom-designed black anodized mount that slots into the car’s railing system.


Each 120W panel features strategic mounting holes easily connecting to the GEM-manufactured metal rooftop mounting system. A front guard hugs the solar modules, and canopy, seamlessly completing the design.


The next-generation GEM solar panels have a new sleek design leveraging the highest efficiency solar cells and PowerFilm and GEM’s manufacturing expertise.


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PowerFilm’s rapid prototyping capabilities, 35-plus years in the industry, and collaborative culture resulted in taking the initial concept to a manufacturing-ready solution in under a year.


GEM's new, powerful solar option turns heads for all the right reasons, enabling drivers to reduce their carbon footprint and drive their cars farther.


Components of the GEM Solar Solution


Based on the model, GEM cars will have 240W or 360W installed (an aftermarket kit to modify an existing GEM car that you already own is coming soon).


Panels are glass-free and fully encapsulated in a UV-resistant and waterproof ETFE, which features self-cleaning properties making maintenance as simple as wiping the panels occasionally with a cloth.


Icons depict UV protection, waterproof, Self-Cleaning, and a hand wiping a surface to clean it.


Custom cabling routes from the car’s roof into the battery compartment through a charge controller that boosts or bucks voltage delivering safe, renewable, and reliable power to your batteries.


The new GEM solar option is compatible with AGM and Li-ion batteries and can be used interchangeably with standard 1kW chargers and fast chargers without disconnecting the solar panels.


Impact of GEM solar panels on overall driving distance


After testing the upgraded solution, GEM solar panels will add between 0.72-2.07 miles of range per hour or between 4.3-12.41 miles per day, depending on the vehicle model, payload, battery type, and direct sunlight.


Next Steps


Visit to learn more and build yours.

To learn more about PowerFilm’s custom solar design capabilities, contact us, and let’s start a conversation today.


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