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.
 
Research has not only made solar panels more efficient, but also more affordable. This has prompted many to believe that solar powered carss are actually a viable alternative to fossil fuel-powered ones. But are they really?
 

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.
 
Solar powered cars work in the same way. Photovoltaic solar panels convert sunlight into energy that can either power the car’s motor directly, or it can be stored in a battery that then powers the motor.
 

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.
 

Sunlight

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.
 
When in a parking garage, tunnel or even just on cloudy days, unless a solar vehicle has a battery pack, it won’t be able to move.
 
This links up with the issue of weight, as heavy batteries are required and the heavier the car the more power it needs to move.
 

Costs

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 Sunswift eVe attempts to merge range with speed and practicality, something no other solar car has been able to do thus far. It can do 140 km/h and is able to do 800km on a single charge, all this on as much power as a kitchen toaster.
 
The University of Johannesburg has also just launched their new solar car, the Ilanga II with which they are about to embark on a cross border safari. It will take them on o a 4,160 km circuit route across the border of Namibia and Botswana back to Johannesburg.
 

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.
 
If you are interested in solar energy solutions for your home or business contact us here.

 
 
 
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