We live in a world where technology is being developed each day, and investors are trying their best to make sure that they come up with the best invention ever thought of by humanity.
The first time a solar-powered car was introduced to the world, people had gotten tired of the hassle of gas and electric vehicles.
The inventors of the solar-powered vehicle wowed the entire world. Solar-powered cars are attractive and better, especially for those who want to conserve the ecosystem from harmful chemicals emitted from gasoline and dangerous oils.
The inventors of solar-powered vehicles are trying to make the car very friendly to both the environment and humans.
Solar-powered vehicles have not yet been confirmed to be a means of transportation, unlike the solar-powered boats, which are widely used commercially.
That means that solar-powered vehicles are only produced for engineering exercises and government agencies, mainly fund racing and such projects.
The same way a house powered with solar panels operates, that is the same way the solar-powered vehicles operate.
The vehicle’s body is made with photovoltaic cells with semiconductors that convert solar energy into electricity that the electric motor can use.
There are two ways solar-powered vehicles use the solar energy that is captured by the solar panel.
Some electric motors use the electricity generated directly, and others use it to power their batteries and use the batteries to operate the motor car. Might you have asked yourself a question like do solar-powered vehicles operate at night?
The answer to your question is yes. Solar-powered vehicles can work well at night. The energy gotten from the sun is stored in batteries, which will be used later to power the vehicle even when the conditions are not favorable.
This article will be looking at the advantages of using solar-powered vehicles and some of its drawbacks.
We will try to understand why some investors have decided to put in a lot of money to produce the best solar-powered vehicles in the world. Let us go straight to the advantages.
10 Benefits of Solar Energy Cars
1. Zero Emitting of Gas to the Environment
Solar-powered vehicles have electric motors, and that is how they can convert solar energy into electrical energy with the help of photovoltaic cells.
That means that they can operate without emitting any gases to the atmosphere. Environmental enthusiasts will always like the idea of solar-powered vehicles because it does not pollute the air.
Sunlight is obtained for free, and it is a form of renewable energy compared to fossil gases, which has destroyed our atmosphere. Solar energy cannot pollute the environment, and the only way it does is during the production of panels or the transportation process. But that kind of pollution is never that serious, and once everything is set and installed, there will be no pollution.
2. Preservation of Natural Resources
During production, solar power tends to consume resources and energy, but there is no extra energy or inputs required to operate once the production is done.
They do not depend on petroleum, and oils significantly let us say only during lubrication of the wheels and some parts which need oiling.
Most parts included in a solar-powered vehicle do not need a lot of maintenance than gas-powered engines.
Therefore, once we shift to using solar powered vehicles, we can save many resources as such cars do not need fuel, gas, or maintenance resources.
3. No Fuel Costs Incurred
Even though solar energy is free and easy to use, getting solar panels is not cheap.
But with the recent developments in technology, solar panels are starting to drop their prices, making them readily available and cheaper.
Another advantage of solar panels is that they are long-lasting, and one panel can operate for approximately 30 years.
That is an exceedingly long time compared to ordinary vehicles that use fuel. You will no longer need to worry about fuel, diesel, and gas costs anymore.
Solar-powered vehicles come with solar panels that allow us free sunlight to charge, and once your car is fully charged, you will drive off without spending a dollar on fuel.
The only place you will spend some little dollars is charging the solar batteries using a power outlet.
Since solar energy is free and renewable, you will find yourself saving a lot of dollars when you drive one of these cars.
4. Comfort While Driving
Solar-powered vehicles are relatively smaller than the average car because it does not have parts like the engine, and when you are driving these cars, they are quiet and don’t make any noise.
No vibrations during the driving process, making your driving smooth and comfortable. They are lightweight, and that means you can drive faster and can make turns with ease.
And that is the number one reason they are currently being used for racing. They can quickly stop and start at your convenience.
They are technically stable and have a broad base, enabling them to go extremely fast and not lose balance.
5. Modest Available Power
Solar-powered vehicles have a modest way of utilizing sunlight. Sunlight usually hits the earth at 1000 watts per square meter.
When you convert that solar energy into electricity, it can produce around 200watts of electricity per square meter.
That gives you an efficiency of 20%. That means that the amount of solar that hits your solar panel is approximately 2 kilowatts per square meter.
Most of the motors available today are rated 200Kw, which is 50 times more than a regular solar panel. That means they can produce more kilowatts on their own.
So, what you need to do is get a solar battery that you will use to store the electricity generated from your solar panel for some days before using your solar-powered vehicle.
6. Renewable and Clean Energy Source
Solar energy is a renewable energy source, which means that sunlight will still be there in the next millions of years to come.
Even though some harmful materials are used during the manufacturing of solar panels, they do not usually affect the atmosphere or emit harmful toxins to the environment.
Try and compare a classic car and a solar-powered car and gauge which one will most pollute the environment.
The fossil fuels that are burnt daily by classic cars negatively impact the environment as they produce carbon dioxide and other harmful chemicals.
The sun is free, and you will not need to burn any fuel for your solar car to operate. No carbon dioxide will be emitted when we all decide to go solar.
7. No Energy Cost
The classic car must use diesel, gasoline, or electricity in one way or the other. That means that you will have to spend on energy costs, which is never cheap in the long run.
Let’s use an example of an electric car; it will need the owner to spend some few dollars trying to recharge the electric batteries from a power outlet.
On the contrary, gas-powered vehicles will need the owner to visit a fueling station to fill his tanks to continue their journey.
Now let us look at our solar-powered vehicles, they use energy directly from the sun, and you do not have to pay anybody a single dollar. Sunlight will be available every day, which means you can drive every day without spending money on your solar-powered vehicle.
8. Solar Powered Vehicles Are Barebones
The only use the solar-powered vehicles has today is only to race.
They are designed in a way that they have a low wind resistance ability. The solar-powered vehicles are flat and have room only for the drivers.
Things like wipers, rear motors, and headlights are never included when designing these cars. Their whole body is made with photovoltaic cells, enabling it to capture a lot of sunlight during the day.
Getting into high speeds can also become a severe problem, and that is because they have a horsepower of 9.4, and their motors are meant to operate at 7 kilowatts. That will only leave the idea of speed to the carmakers, but solar-powered vehicles are still reliable for movement.
9. Technology Development
Ever since the first solar-powered car was invented, investors have realized that solar energy is the way to go.
All they need to do is develop a sophisticated technology that will use solar energy to operate.
That means that everyday investors are trying to figure out how to improve solar vehicles’ performance and power so that we can drive freely using solar energy in the future.
Technology is developing every day, and one day we will be able to drive solar-powered vehicles commercially.
I cannot wait for that day!
10. Low Maintenance Cost
Solar-powered vehicles do not have a lot of maintenance.
All you need to do is clean it, and you are ready to drive. You do not need to incur any extra maintenance costs.
A traditional car has many maintenance costs, and if you are to compare with the solar-driven cars, you will notice a huge difference.
If you cannot do the cleaning alone, you can take your car to a specialized cleaning company, and you will pay around $35 for their services.
The good thing about solar-powered vehicles is that the manufacturers always give you a 20 to 25-year warranty because anything happens before then.
They give such a long-time warranty that there are no extra costs to incur on a solar-powered vehicle.
There is also no wear and tears. You can only change the inverter, which can be done after five to ten years, which only occurs depending on the energy conversion rate and heat.
You can also change the cables, which can wear off apart from nothing much to change in your car. Those are the only situations you will spend some dollars after the initial purchase of your solar-powered vehicle.
5 Drawbacks of Solar Energy Cars
We cannot finish this topic without looking at some of the disadvantages of a solar-powered vehicle.
Of course, anything good has its negative side, and that is what we are going to look at next. Let us go straight to our first disadvantage.
1. High Initial Cost
Before inventors embark on creating a solar-powered vehicle, there is some initial cost that they will have to incur.
For example, batteries, wires for installation, quality inverters, and the solar panel. Purchasing all these parts is never cheap, considering you cannot get them in a traditional garage.
You need to include the workforce and the technology you will use to bring all the parts together. But that has not discouraged the manufacturers of solar-powered vehicles as every new idea comes up every day.
2. Weather Dependent
Solar-powered vehicles need direct sunlight, and when sunlight is not available, there will be a slight problem.
The solar panels used to make the vehicle need direct sunlight, and when it is raining, the efficiency of such vehicles will be below.
So, the manufacturers are coming up with new ideas to enable the solar-powered vehicle to operate still even when the conditions are not favorable.
They have introduced the use of solar batteries, which saves the energy collected from the sun.
3. Expensive to Store Solar Energy
The number one reason why solar-powered vehicles can move is that they use energy. That energy needs to be stored in solar batteries, which might be hard when there is no sun for some days.
The batteries are only charged during the day when there is sufficient sunlight.
The energy can be used at night, and if you did not store sufficient energy, you might be in serious problems. The batteries themselves are not that cheap, considering they are only built for such cars.
4. Solar Panels Consume A lot of space
If you want to get the best from the sun, you will need enough space to capture enough solar energy to operate the vehicle.
The top of a solar-powered vehicle is the only place the PV panels can be installed, but that space is never enough considering that powering a vehicle does not require fewer kilowatts.
That means if you cannot have that enough space on top of your car, you will need to improvise and get more panels.
5. Manufacturing Causes Pollution
During the manufacturing process, there are harmful materials that are always used, causing harm to the atmosphere.
Transporting those parts to and from the factory needs some lorries that will pollute the ozone layer.
But you can never compare the amount of pollution caused by solar production to fuel-powered cars. They are significantly worse when it comes to air pollution.
A Brief History About the First Solar Race Challenge
Many inventors are working day and night to ensure that we will have a solar-powered vehicle that can be used commercially.
They mainly focus on the batteries because batteries are the ones that can store the energy that is gotten from the sun and store them for later use.
Having batteries that can save a considerable amount of energy will be vital in solving the problems associated with solar vehicles.
Weather conditions are the number one problem the inventors face, so having a battery that can save enough energy for long is essential.
The world’s most famous race is called the “world solar challenge” which is usually conducted every two or three years from Darwin to Adelaide, Australia.
The race is about 3,006 kilometers, and it held that region because of the amount of sunlight received in that area.
The first inventors of the solar-powered car were Vivianne and Stewart Lister. They were the first people to design and build a solar-powered vehicle, and they entered the racing challenge in 1993.
If you want more information about how the race ended, you can always find it in the “School Journal part 4, number 3, 1994”.
To give you a brief knowledge of what happened, Vivianne and Stewart made a large solar panel on top of their vehicle and made it flexible so that it could face the sun in all directions. And that was an excellent idea.
The only problem is that they were once tilting the solar panels in the sun’s direction. They encountered a significant problem with the speed of the car. It was about 50 Km/h.
A tragedy occurred in one windy and sunny day when winds were too much, and it lifted the car off the ground and dumped it a few meters away off the road.
Another major problem that they encountered was the extreme heat in the cockpit area. The batteries were not meant to hold enough energy, and so in rainy and cloudy conditions, they could not drive.
The batteries also took a lot of space, which was another huge problem. Even with all those problems and huddles, Vivianne and Stewart still managed to finish in the first spot.
That is why technology is developing each day to find out how to solve Vivianne and Stewart’s different problems during their race. Big companies like Toyota are trying to build efficient cells and batteries, enabling fast and efficient long-lasting batteries.
They are trying to build batteries that can hold energy for long hours. Considering the first world solar challenge held in 1987, the winner had 67km/h.
With recent technologies, another race was held in 2007; the speed was 91km/h. That shows you how technology has dramatically changed, and in the future, things ought to be better.
Now that we have seen the benefits and disadvantages of solar-powered vehicles, we hope that there will be a more great improvement to reduce the drawbacks in the future.
We looked at the benefits, including free and renewable, no fuel costs, higher maintenance cost, no pollution, and many other advantages.
We also looked at some disadvantages and how the first solar challenge race was conducted and what transpired. We saw how Vivianne and Stewart won their race with speeds of 67km/h.
With all that history, we hope that the future will bring out the best when it comes to solar-powered vehicles.