solar power cars are used primarily for
racing purposes, with many
long-distance solar car races taking place around the world each year.
Unfortunately, the technology is not yet at the point where we can use
solar energy as a practical means to completely power our vehicles -
though if we want to go green we can still rely on alternative fuel sources
for that - but
solar energy is being used to power other types of vehicles already,
including boats and golf
carts. Several car companies have also begun
producing vehicles with solar panels used to provide energy to
accessories such as the lights and stereo.
How Solar Cars Work
Solar power cars work by
harnessing the light from the sun and
converting it into electricity. They accomplish this through the use of
solar cells which generate electricity when struck by
sunlight. This electricity is then usually sent directly to an electric
motor, or used to charge a battery which powers the car.
The size of
the PV cells determines how much electricity they can generate:
therefore, it is necessary to have very large panels to power a vehicle
completely through the use of solar panels. Most solar racecars are
completely covered in solar panels on every available inch of their
surface in order to achieve the most possible energy production.
Effectiveness of Solar
One of the biggest
criticisms of solar cars is their effectiveness.
Many people believe that when the sun isn’t shining or it’s nighttime,
then your solar vehicle won’t be able to run. This isn’t entirely true
though, as all solar cells charge
a battery when they are not using
energy. However, this only means that your battery will be charged when
the vehicle is not in
This is why many people
feel that we will
never truly own solar cars, as there will always have to be a
system for them to be practical to drive whenever and
A lot of the focus on
solar research in vehicles has gone into
hybrids which also run on batteries, or using solar
power only to power some of the vehicles auxiliary functions.
The other issue with solar
cars is that the weight of a modern car
requires entirely more energy to move than can be generated with solar
panels. This means that a modern car running exclusively on solar power
would probably not be able to travel much faster than 15 miles per
hour. This is why most solar powered racecars are incredibly
lightweight, allowing them to travel at much faster speeds than a
Solar Powered Vehicles and Developments
- Golf Carts and Utility
- Solar Powered Racecars
Much research is being
done on solar-electric hybrid
vehicles which can
run either off solar power or off of batteries. The solar panels
attached to the car or the RV
solar panels could also be used to help recharge the battery.
While many companies have developed prototypes and plans, no one has
been able to perfect the electric car or the solar car as of yet.
Solar Powered Boats
While we may not be able
to use solar cars as a daily form of
transportation, the same cannot be said of solar boats.
have been on the market for quite a few years, and are a quite
effective means of transportation due to the decreased friction when
travelling on water versus on land.
The majority of solar
boats in use
in the world today are used for public transportation, with the Solar
Shuttle, also known as the Alster Sun, in Hamburg, Germany
being one of
the most famous examples.
This boat is capable of
carrying up to 120
people at a time and cruises around Hamburg’s Alster River five times a
time, going past all of the city’s major landmarks and tourist
It has been running almost
continually since it was put
into service in 2000, and is considered the world’s largest solar boat.
The major advantage of
solar boats is that they are almost
quiet and produce absolutely zero emissions. Most boats
gasoline or diesel to power noisy propellers or motors that often leak
into the water creating mini oil-slicks as they travel through the
water. If you are willing to sacrifice the speed of a gasoline powered
motor, then a solar boat may be the ideal choice, and they go plenty
fast enough to be a very efficient and viable transportation option for
lakes, rivers, and even the oceans and seas.
Solar Utility Vehicles
One of the major issues
with using solar power to run vehicles is due
to the weight of the vehicle. It takes entirely too much energy to move
around a heavy car, but luckily many of the other vehicles people use
are much lighter. There are now solar golf carts and scooters, and solar
lawnmowers are even in the development
While it may
never be possible to run your car off solar power, it is already
possible to take a step away from fossil fuels by converting any of the
utility type vehicles to solar power. Several cities have
already begun to look into the effectiveness of having mail carriers
drive smaller solar powered vehicles for their deliveries.
Solar car races
The majority of
functioning solar cars are developed solely for use in
races. These cars are usually developed by engineering
students and faculty at some of the world’s most prestigious
universities, and corporations which specialize in solar energy or
engineering. There are even some high school teams that develop and
race solar cars for some races. The most well-known solar
car races are
the North American Solar
Challenge and the World
of these races require teams to build vehicles powered entirely by
solar energy and race them over extremely long distances and over
demanding terrain. The World Solar Challenge is a race all the way
across the continent of Australia- a distance of almost 2000 miles, in
a little over a week.
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