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20 April 2022

What are solar cars like?

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4 min.
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Our means of transport make advances every day. With the arrival of new technologies, major vehicle brands seek to optimise the energy that’s used to drive vehicles, such as the solar cars we're going to learn about in this article.

Sustainable mobility has caused car manufacturers and energy suppliers to look for alternative sources, previously unknown until now, which allow vehicles to run without emitting exhaust pollution into the environment. This has led to the creation of solar cars.

These vehicles, which are not well known to society in general, feature substantial technological developments and may become a real alternative for mobility today, which we’ll all get to know sooner rather than later. And its thanks to several factors—the current state of things, caring for the environment and the problems caused by climate change—which are driving companies to develop alternatives that are kind to our surroundings. 

How solar cars work

These cars work thanks to an electric engine that runs off of solar panels which are fixed all over the chassis and act as a continuous source of energy.  The sun’s energy is absorbed and transformed via the solar cells and is either stored in the car’s batteries or sent directly to the engine to power the car. 

The most positive aspect of having an electric vehicle that's powered by solar energy is that it’s environmentally friendly and doesn’t emit any pollution. Although, the trade-off is that these cars depend on daylight hours, which may be a determining factor in their use.

There is another important factor to this type of energy, which is in development, and that’s the fact that the photovoltaic solar cells that comprise the panels for these vehicles are currently developed to be 26% efficient, a margin that will increase to 29% in the coming years — figures which are a limiting factor for using this energy source in this kind of mobility solution.

It’s clear that they are still prototypes and have yet to hit the market, but there are several brands that are working on them and are carrying out a lot of research on this technology.

Several factors are key

One fundamental factor in the usability of this type of vehicle is geographical location. Spain is perfect thanks to the significant amount of daylight hours it receives, which would facilitate car charging, but in other locations that have a fewer number of daylight hours, the issue becomes somewhat more complex.

Cost savings

If these cars are developed for conventional use, they would be massively advantageous from an economic perspective. While the purchase price may be higher due to the advanced technological development included under the hood, we shouldn’t forget that refuelling will be a thing of the past thanks to the power of solar energy.

Range dependence

Something else that stands out with these cars is their potential range and limitations. Being 100% dependent on the sun at all times so that the vehicle is drivable may end up complicating some situations.

However, if these vehicles include the possibility of being charged via the grid, their viability would see a significant increase.

A promising future for solar cars

Technological evolution will set the path for the future of this technology in the coming years. If we take a look back in time, it would seem unimaginable to think that we would be driving around in a car that we can plug into the mains at home. Perhaps the same thing can happen with this technology and some years down the road our cars will be powered by solar energy.

It’s clear that in matters of sustainability and caring for the environment, this type of car is a complete success because it doesn’t generate waste when driven, which makes it one of the most advantageous choices around.

That’s why the future of this technology depends on manufacturers continuing to develop the tools and applications that make these cars a reality, and to ensure that they're able to reduce their environmental impact to as little as possible and build sustainable mobility.