Are Solar Powered Cars a Realistic Option?
Solar powered cars may be the wave of the future. Or not.
True solar powered cars are actually electric vehicles powered by solar panels. The panels produce electricity by converting the sun's rays into energy stored in batteries. These batteries then power the vehicle.
The problem is that makers of solar-powered cars have not figured out how to solve some very big problems … problems that keep true solar cars from being commercially viable.
In order to harness the energy of the sun effectively, solar-powered cars have had to be extremely lightweight plus they have to be designed so as to be as close to aerodynamically perfect as possible … and neither of these limits makes for a good Road vehicle. After all, do not you want a car that can carry at least 5 people and go 70 mph on the highway? And how about air conditioning?
If that's what you want from a vehicle, you do not want a solar-powered car … not yet. In the first place true solar-powered cars can currently carry no more than 2 people. Now, that might be great if what you want is a sports car. But, if you want a sports car, you probably want it to go more than a top speed of 60 miles per hour.
Granted, ongoing work on solar cells will allow them to become much, much smaller and the cars they are used to become more "user-friendly".
But, in the meantime, just because true solar powered cars might still be the stuff of dreams, solar powered hybrid vehicles could actually turn out to be pretty practical.
Indeed, systems that use solar energy to charge a hybrid vehicle's battery pack (along with a supplementary solar battery system) actually allow for hybrid cars to operate for extended periods in the electric (rather than gas) mode before needing to be charged. The use of such a solar power charging system could increase fuel economy by at least 25%.
By reducing dependency on recharging the hybrid's battery by running it on solar power, rather than gasoline power, the use of solar energy makes hybrid vehicles even more "green" than they already are.