Beneteau First 235
First 235 Battery Upkeep: VW Solar Panel Option
Tip Courtesy of Larry Pockras ***

Volkswagen was having issues a couple of years ago trying to keep electronics alive, while shipping cars around the world, so they ended up including a solar panel that plugs into a cigarette lighter to keep the batteries topped off.

I don't know what others have for power requirements, but I use my battery for instruments, and occasional inverter use with my laptop. None of which puts a big dent in its capacitance.

The panels were available from the VW dealer for the asking or you can get them on ebay for around $10-20 each - See Link at right.

Having installed two cigarette lighter plugs (one inside the nav panel, and one facing the salon side of the interior) and both set to the lighting circuit, I just leave the circuit in the on position, making sure the lights themselves are off, and place the panel in the slightly tinted fixed light with its four suction cups. It remained charged all season. The cord reaches about 6' so it can go to the area of the electrical panel. I just unplug it while I sail. Have checked it over the summer, and every time I return, my battery is topped off just fine.

It has a bridge rectifier built into the cigarette lighter plug (so don't cut it off) in order to prevent battery drain at night or during overcast days.

BTW, the cig. lighter adapters are available at any auto parts place, including Wal-mart, for a couple of bucks, and make handy 12V acc outlets. I installed, as I mentioned, two and placed them on the lighting circuit. They even have their own inline fuse. The panels are not weather proof, so it remains inside out of the weather.

Note: This charger is only a TRICKLE CHARGER and not meant to charge a dead battery, instead keeping a battery topped up. The max power is a low 3.2w. with current a very low 170mA at max power.

- Larry Pockras

***UPDATE***  5 - 14 - 2011

I received a mail from a Dante Casali who informed me that some of the newer VW solar panels come with an "OBD-2" plug that is not a 12V cigar lighter. These won't work with the typical boat electrical system. Make sure you note the plug type. - kh


ebay Solar Panel Search


Max Power: 3.2W

Voltage at Max Power:: 18.8V

Current at Max Power: 170mA


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