Is There a Bright Future for Solar Cars?
In October, a Dutch-engineered car powered by the sun drove almost 2,000 miles across the Australian outback at an average speed of 56 miles per hour. Solar-powered cars obviously run on the sun and people always love these two words-- free and clean. But, there are still quite a few limitations if you want to drive a solar vehicle. The one in Australia had room for only a driver, travelled only during daylight hours and used a small battery to get started.
So, will we likely see solar cars on our roads in the near future? Most experts say no. The photovoltaic cells used in solar cars currently capture the sunlight and convert it to electricity, but they are expensive to produce and the car is made from expensive lightweight materials like titanium composites. However, solar-powered vehicles might find some limited use as commuter cars where they had an opportunity to recharge during the day, and some are used today as golf carts.
There are limits to using photovoltaic (PV) cells and here are a few:
- Power density: Power from a solar array is limited by the size of the vehicle and area that can be exposed to sunlight. This can also be overcome by adding a flatbed and connecting it to the car and this gives more area for panels for powering the car. While energy can be accumulated in batteries to lower peak demand on the array and provide operation in sunless conditions, the battery adds weight and cost to the vehicle. The power limit can be mitigated by use of conventional electric cars supplied by solar (or other) power, recharging from the electrical grid.
- Cost: While sunlight is free, the creation of PV cells to capture that sunlight is expensive. Costs for solar panels are steadily declining (22% cost reduction per doubling of production volume).
- Design limitations: Even though sunlight has no lifespan, PV cells do. The lifetime of a solar module is approximately 30 years. Standard photovoltaics often come with a warranty of 90% (from nominal power) after 10 years and 80% after 25 years.
Of all the alternative forms of transportation that are currently under development, solar-powered vehicles are near the top of the list. So, does solar have a bright future when it comes to the automotive world? At Abra Auto Body Repair Of America - Kokomo, we strongly believe that they will eventually provide all of us with a greener choice and a sunny future.
Sources: Green Garage, Car Tech News