Startups, researchers and carmakers are working on a new way of powering transport that one day may be no more unusual than a hybrid-electric Prius: Cars that drive on self-generated energy straight from the sun.
There are already a number of prototypes and concepts of solar-powered vehicles, from the eponymous and aerodynamic Lightyear One, designed and developed by Dutch startup Lightyear, and the planned Sion by German solar car startup Sono that smashed crowdfunding targetsrecently to the tune of €53 million ($A85 million).
Hyundai has even unveiled a hybrid Sonata with photovoltaic (PV) panels integrated into its roof (it was first launched in South Korea in 2019) that it claims can add an extra 1,300km a year in driving range to its small battery from six hours of sunshine a day.
Then there’s the World Solar Challenge, among other solar car races, for which solar car technology is pushed to the limits and in which Australia’s own Sunswift solar racing team from UNSW excelled in 2019 coming second only to the Dutch Team Eindhoven.
The motivations for developing solar-powered cars are many.
Electric cars can already help reduce Australia’s dependency on petrol and diesel – the country currently has only has 18 days fuel in reserve, 75% of which is used for transport – and reduce transport-related carbon emissions, which accounts for 23% of all carbon emissions.
Being able to charge a car directly off the sun, however, is also a boon for those without the ability to install their own solar panels at home, or wanting to reduce consumption of energy powered from a grid still reliant on fossil fuels.
But how close are we really to seeing solar cars a part of every day life? What would the benefits be, and for what price? And how far will they really be able to drive on free power sourced purely from the sun?
To read the full story on RenewEconomy’s electric vehicle dedicated sister site, The Driven, click here…