Is Solar the Future of Electric Cars?

Solar Panels

The one thing that prevents people from buying an electric vehicle is the range anxiety that they have and the perfect solution would be to introduce a solar-powered vehicle in that way the problem would be solved forever. Along with that, solar-powered cars have risen to prominence as interest in renewable and sustainable energy systems has grown.

Many car companies are working on solar vehicles, and the technology has the potential to transform the automotive industry’s future. We are going to check out the question “Is solar the future of electric cars?” in this post.

Here are a few reasons that solar cars could be game-changers.

  • The main concern of an electric car driver is Range anxiety.
  • Solar-powered cars could address this to a great extent.
  • With a solar-powered car, you wouldn’t have to search for charging stations while driving.
  • Since the car is being charged by sunlight during the day you won’t have to depend on other charging network providers.

What is a solar car and How does it work?

Solar cars are electric vehicles that turn sunlight into electricity using photovoltaic cells. These cars can store some solar energy in batteries and operate smoothly at night or when there is no direct sunlight. Solar-powered vehicles, when used on a wide scale, help to reduce both noise pollution and gas emissions.

Many solar-powered car designs are currently being built. Hybrid solar cars are being built by both large and small automakers. The solar vehicle market is projected to hit $689 billion by 2027, according to some projections.

Automobile companies are already developing interim technologies, such as solar roof panels for charging batteries and internal systems, to capitalize on the concept.

Solar vehicles, on the other hand, have a range of major design and technical limitations. Aesthetics play a role in some of these. A car like this will need to be able to accommodate many solar panels, which would take up a lot of room. As a result, most solar vehicles built so far are designed to participate in solar car races rather than to be used on a daily basis.

Sunswift IV (also known as Violet) is the world’s fastest solar car at the moment. This car was designed for Solar Racing by University of New South Wales students. The car employs technology that is similar to a hybrid of technologies used in the bicycle and aerospace industries, as well as the automotive industry.

The science under the hood

Photons, or light rays, excite electrons in a solar panel, resulting in an electric current. Solar panels are made up of several small photovoltaic cells that are bound together.

Every photovoltaic cell is essentially two slices of semiconducting material, such as silicon, sandwiched together. To give each “slice” a positive or negative electrical charge, silicon is mixed with other materials, typically phosphorus, and boron. At the point where the two layers meet, an electric field is formed.

When a photon of sunlight knocks an electron loose, it is forced out of the silicon junction by the electric field. The electrons are captured and passed to wires by metal conductive plates on the cell’s sides. The electrons will then move freely, just like any other source of electricity.

Recent developments

Toyota, Hyundai, and other giants are working on a completely functional solar car or a hybrid version. Other solar car projects are also underway, with the goal of making vehicle technology more competitive in the future.

  • Toyota launched a prototype solar-powered Prius in 2019.
  • That prototype could generate 180 watts of electricity per hour and had a range of 3.8 miles. 
  • On further development, they claimed to have a power output of 860W and a range of 27.6 miles (44.5 kilometers) on a single charge.
  • The solar cells could only charge the battery 3, so the vehicle needed to be charged at a charging station.
  • Lightyear, a Dutch startup, has unveiled a prototype of the first solar-powered electric vehicle, the ‘Lightyear One,’ 
  • The Light year has a range of 450 miles on a single charge.

Sono Motors is another startup that works for a solar-powered electric vehicle. They have manufactured an electric car Sion whose body is integrated with high-efficiency solar panels.

Sono Motors’ Sion

48 solar cells seamlessly integrated into the body of our solar car to convert solar energy to electric energy. The Sion can add up to 245 km (112 km on average) of driving range per week through solar energy to the car’s battery. Full self-sufficiency on short distances.

What keeps solar cars away from the market?

Though the concept and the impact of the solar car is promising and thrilling there are a couple of major issues that prevent solar cars from entering into the mainstream market. Though the idea of solar car is brilliant there are a lot of technical and economical issues which have to be addressed.

A few of the hurdles to overcome are,

  • Our commercially operated solar panels have an efficiency of just 20 to 35 % now.
  • The integration of the solar panels on the vehicle increases the cost of the vehicle
  • Though solar films have been developed, they are much lighter than solar panels, but they are also less effective.
  • Solar-powered vehicles (with no other power source) seem to be less practical in the real world. However, an electric vehicle integrated with a solar charging system to improve the range of the vehicle is practical

The answer to the question – is solar the future of electric cars?

There are a number of hurdles that have to be resolved to have self-sufficient solar-powered cars on our roads. Though, the whole world is in search of renewable, more stable forms of energy and solar is the most promising one since it’s free of cost after the initial investment and a little amount on maintenance.

The electric cars that integrated with solar panels on the roof has been developed and tested by some manufacturers.. But the vehicle that works only on solar energy is impractical, at least for a few years until the photovoltaic technology improves further.

Merging solar energy and electric cars would be a game-changer for both the industry and the environment and companies around the world are working on the same. Let us hope that over the years we will have fully solar-operated cars on our roads.

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