Solar panels work in the same way on a mobile vehicle as they work on a home except they are usually not permanently attached to the vehicle or wired into its electrical system. You can buy or make your own portable solar panel system that can be taken down and set up or use small or flexible panels that can be roof mounted. A mobile solar system setup makes sense for owners who do lots of “boondocking” without a nearby power source, but doesn’t make sense if you are primarily at campgrounds with electric hookups nearby.
RV solar systems are much smaller than residential solar systems and are designed to provide enough power to recharge electronics or run some kitchen appliances. A solar panel setup can be a cost effective and green way to use electricity on the go as solar panels require little or no maintenance.
To use solar power for a van, RV, or camper, your system will need solar panels, a battery for storage, an inverter to run AC appliances and a charge controller to avoid overcharging your battery storage system. There are many off the rack mobile solar systems that you can buy from camping stores and retailers and while most solar installers won’t work on a mobile system, there are companies that do specialize in this type of installation if you’d prefer to have something permanently connected to your vehicle.
To learn more about this type of system or connect with other solar RV/van enthusiasts, there are multiple Facebook groups and many Reddit posts devoted to mobile solar systems.