|Solar powered cars – are they the future of motoring?
In 1989 the big milestone was to create solar panels that could convert 20 per cent of sunlight into energy. The University of New South Wales has recently been able to break the 40 per cent barrier.
How Do Solar Cars Work
Solar cars and solar powered houses work on the same system. With houses photovoltaic solar panels capture sunlight. This sunlight is then converted into energy that powers electrical appliances. Excess energy can either be stored in batteries or pushed into the national grid if the national energy regulator allows for it.
How Practical Are Solar Powered Cars?
Unfortunately, despite some vigorous research and development, solar powered cars are still a long way off the mark compared to electric battery charged and hydrogen cars.
Weight and Power
Solar cars find it very difficult to gather enough power to move it. That’s why most of the vehicles only seat one person, don’t have any boot space and aren’t road legal.
Designers also find it difficult to power the car throughout the day from the morning to the evening. Whereas houses, buildings and even the International Space Station receive almost constant sunlight, vehicles don’t have that luxury.
This issue of power then relates to the costs of solar cars. A car doesn’t have much space for solar panels to be placed. As a result the solar panels have to be extremely efficient and light-weight, which means that they are extremely expensive.
Getting closer to a functional solar car
This all being said, the University of New South Wales has designed a solar powered car that they claim has overcame these issues and is road legal.
The Future of Solar Vehicles
While solar powered cars do not seem to be a viable option in the near future, this technology should by no means be discarded. With all the research that is going into it, it might just become the most practical mode of transport in the future.