The level and quality of technology that today’s society has reached is helping the next generations to push even further and wow the world with their inventions.
The automobile industry entered into a new revolution when the solar powered cars were first introduced. This was especially a big relief for the people who were using gas electric hybrid cars.
The functioning of solar cars and their environmental friendliness makes them a perfect fit for many people, especially for those who are concerned about the environment. This is a perfect type of personal transportation that everyone is looking forward to.
The hype around solar vehicles is the main driving factor for the researchers who are constantly trying to better the solar panels in order to make better performing solar powered vehicles.
There are lots of other solar powered things like boats available out there which are pretty popular as well, but these devices and vehicles have not yet reached a point at which they will get good enough to replace the traditional personal transport vehicles.
The solar vehicles being made these days are mostly exclusively made on custom orders, or are intended for engineering experiments designed to benchmark and improve the technology.
The concept of a solar car is comparable with the idea of a house run on solar power. The photovoltaic cells in solar panels absorb some of the sunlight falling on them and convert that into electricity. This electricity is then used to run the motor/ engine of the car.
Some cars feed the electricity made through solar panels directly into the motor, while others use this energy to change the battery, which then powers the engine and keeps it running.
But you might be asking yourself this question, “Can solar cars run at night?”. Well, it is completely possible. The electricity made by the solar panels is used to charge the battery of the car. The juice stored in this battery can be used at night or in bad weather conditions.
In this article, we will take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of solar powered cars to show you both sides of the picture. You will be in a better, decision making position after reading this article.
As it is certain from the points above, there are lots of benefits of using a solar powered car as your daily conveyance. Here are 10 obvious benefits of using solar powered cars.
Solar cars run on electric motors. They run by lowering up the motor with the electricity generated from photovoltaic cells. That is why these cars do not use any fuel, and have zero emissions.
This feature appeals to most people. People love having a car that runs without fuel, and does not have anything to do with air pollution.
Solar power is free of any pollution, and so are solar powered cars. They do not emit any harmful games into the atmosphere.
There is some pollution that is made during the manufacturing and recycling of the solar panels, but that is nothing compared to the benefits that solar panel provides you with in its lifetime. So, there are zero emissions associated with solar cars, and this is one of the best things about them.
Saves Natural Resources
The only energy that is needed is during the manufacturing process of a solar car. After that, the car does not need any type of external energy to run, and relies fully on the solar power.
The dependence of solar cars on petroleum products is zero. They do not require any type of oil changes. However, you might need lubricant for the wheels.
In addition to all this, the motifs and most of the other parts of solar cars are maintenance free. This is in contrast to the gas powered cars which need regular maintenance.
So, by using a solar powered car, you can save a lot of natural resources as you will not be needing them to run your car.
Zero Fuel Costs
When your car runs on solar energy, it is always free and unlimited. But getting solar panels can be expensive.
But due to the spike in their demand, the prices of solar panels are decreasing considerably with every coming year. The time is not far when solar panels will be easy to buy and affordable.
Also, the lifespan of solar panels is very high. It is around 30 years, which is way more than the lifespan of a car itself. This makes sure that your investment is paid off in the long run.
So, the fuel costs of solar powered cars are literally zero. They are free from all the costs associated with fuel that are common in other conventional cars.
The only thing you will need to take care of is finding a power outlet and changing your car’s battery by spending a few dollars. The energy created from the sunlight does not have any associated costs. Sun provides you with unlimited and free source of energy.
Solar cars are therefore perfect for people who are tired of paying again and again to get their fuel tank refilled. Solar cars are free to operate once an initial investment has been made by buying them.
Comfy Driving Experience
The electric motor present in a solar car is usually smaller than that of a regular car’s engine. That is why solar powered cars do not make any considerable noise while you are driving.
These cars can also be built extremely lightweight. This helps them run smoothly and turn faster than usual. The simplicity of these cars make them perfect for races and student projects.
The lightweight body of these cars allow you to gain more speeds easily. This is one of the best things about solar powered cars.
Just Enough Available Power
Bright sunlight is full of energy. It can provide 1000 watts per square meter when it falls on the surface of the earth. However, solar panels can absorb only 20% of this power on average, thus making only 200 watts per square meter of solar panels.
If we fit some solar panels on the car to make 2 kW of power, this would still not be sufficient for the electric motor that runs the car. Electric motors in solar cars are usually rated for 100 kW or even more in some cases.
This problem can be overcome by charging the battery in your car over time, and by having a second plug in option to charge the car externally through a power outlet whenever needed. A smaller motor can also do the job by consuming less energy.
Renewable & Clean Energy
Since your solar car will use sunlight to generate renewable and clean energy, the same amount of sunlight will be there everyday. The sun is not going anywhere for billions of years, and we can confidently rely on it to provide us with an endless amount of energy.
The manufacturing process of solar panels is the only step in which some pollution causing materials are used, but after that, the panel does its part to eliminate the emissions, and save our environment in the long run.
When both the solar cars and conventional cars are compared, we can clearly see that the latter uses fuel for power, which is a finite resource and produces harmful gases when burnt. Solar cars on the other hand are free of all these hassles. They do not need any fuel to run, and keep the environment safe from pollutants like CO2.
Free Energy Generation
Every type of cars, like gasoline, diesel and even the electric cars have certain fuel, energy costs associated with them.
You will need to refuel the gas tank of yoir gas car, and electric cars also require you to spend a few bucks in order to recharge them from a commercial electricity outlet.
Now when we take a look at the solar cars, they use the sunlight as their free source of energy. That is why no direct fuel costs are associated with a solar powered car. The sun provides you with free energy everyday, and you do not have to spend even a penny to fuel your car.
They Are Still Barebones
Since solar energy is not there yet when it comes to efficiency, solar cars are still made barebones to maximize their speed. These cars are made for the solar purpose of racing or science projects, so, they are kept low to the ground and do not have any extra accessories on them to minimize the weight and maximize the speed. That is why they do not have much wind resistance.
Aesthetics are not an issue, and these cars are covered with photovoltaic cells all over their body. This all is done to maximize the power production by increasing the power production as much as possible.
Running these cars at normal car speeds is very difficult since the motors used in these cars are still weak and are rated at 7 kilowatts or 9.4 horsepower.
Although there are working models of solar cars available in the market, automakers still need to work a lot on improving the technology in order to make these cars appealing for the end customer.
Advancement in Technology
Solar energy us very useful, but there is still much room for improvement. There are still much improvements to make in this domain to make the technology perfect.
One of the best things happened since the introduction of solar energy is the introduction of solar powered cars. Many people now know how solar powered cars are much better as compared to the traditional gas powered cars.
Solar technology has come a long way, and researchers are still trying to improve it for the betterment of environment and to provide a suitable alternative for dangerous fuels used in traditional cars.
The days are not far away when solar powered cars will be everywhere on the roads, and they will replace the traditional cars.
Little to No Maintenance
Everything associated with solar power does not need much maintenance. Keep in mind that you will need to keep it clean of any dust accumulation throughout the year. There are also several cleaning service providers that you can hire to do this work for you. They will do it for a very reasonable price.
Also, keep in mind that solar panels come with warranties ranging from 15 all the way up to 30 years. That is because there are no moving parts associated with a solar setup, and the panels do not show any wear and tear over time.
The only thing that you will need to change is the inverter. This can be changed after around 10 years. That is because the solar inverter works continuously 24/ 7. You might also need to keep the wires working properly in order to keep up the efficiency of the solar setup.
So, there are some maintenance costs to consider when you have a solar setup installed in your house.
Drawbacks of Solar Powered Cars
There are always two sides of the picture. There are benefits and drawbacks of the solar powered cars that you will have to consider.
Everything has its own benefits and drawbacks, and here are some drawbacks of solar powered cars.
The price of solar panels have gone down considerably, but solar setups are still costly to buy.
There are lots of things that you will need alongside solar panels to make a full system that works. So, the cost of buying all these things is high, and is a disadvantage of solar energy.
We can hope that the prices of accessories related to solar energy will go down pretty soon.
Depends on Weather
The efficiency of solar panels directly depends on their sunlight exposure. Although they can still generate power in bad weather, the efficiency decreases considerably. But this can be recovered when there is more sunlight available, as the efficiency increases.
So, we can clearly see that the power generation of solar setups directly depends on the sunlight exposure. This is also the reason why we can not generate any energy during night.
Storage is Expensive
As we just mentioned, solar energy can not be generated at night. This is why you will need to store the energy generated during day for night usage in your car. Batteries are used in solar cars to generate power.
You can leave your car to fully charge during the day, and use the charged batteries at night to power your car.
The batteries also need to the replaced every few years. That is also an ongoing cost of having a solar powered car.
Panels Need Space
Cars do not run on low energy, higher speeds and more weight means more power is needed to run the motor and keep the car running. So, to generate more power, more solar panels will be needed, and they take up a lot of space.
Top roof of the car is not big enough for the needed panels. So, we have to install less panels on the car, and that means the motor should be small.
As the technology improves, it is expected that the efficiency of the solar panels would increase as well. This is the only way we will have more power to use high end motors that run the car faster.
It Causes Some Pollution in The Manufacturing Process
There are lots of dangerous materials that are used in the manufacturing process of photovoltaic cells and solar panels. That is why the manufacturing process of these panels is not exactly environmentally friendly. In fact, it has toxic chemicals that are very bad for our environment.
However, this is a one time thing, as the solar panel itself does not cause any type of pollution when in usage. These panels are also good for around 30 years, making the pollution caused in the manufacturing process insignificant.
Just like the manufacturing process, the recycling process of the solar panels also generates lots of different types of pollutants, and the silicon recovery percentage is usually low. The process is so complex that small scale recycling is not financially feasible, and only large scale recycling plants are capable of returning profits in the long run.
Countries like Italy and China where most of the solar panels are being, made, used and recycled are already preparing to handle the dead and expired solar panels. A surge in the amount of dead panels is expected in the upcoming years, and the countries are already working to devise some ways to make the recycling process cost effective and feasible.
So, while solar powered cars are definitely the future, they are still far from being perfect for everyday usage. There are still lits of work to do to improve the efficiency of solar panels in order to fit them in a small place like a car’s roof top.