Overcoming the Challenges of Solar-Powered Vehicles | Guest Blog
Posted by Roseanne: Jul 05, 2018 • 4 min read
Here we have guest blogger Giles Kirkland - car expert with passion for electric vehicles - discussing the challenges of solar-powered vehicles.
It’s often debated how ‘green’ electric cars truly are, when we account for how the energy is made. Which leads to many having the belief that solar-powered cars are the best of the ‘green bunch.’ But with renewable energy not making up 100% of electricity sourced to power electric vehicles is it arguable that there are ways that powering our transport could still be massively improved.
This fact partnered with the occasionally inconvenient process of charging your car has made potential ways to improve current technologies popular among green car manufacturers and users alike. Most popular among the innovative automotive technologies that we are seeing is the possibility to power cars directly from their own solar power platforms.
In theory this seems like a great way to cut the possibility of ‘dirty energy’ making their way into electric vehicles and eradicate any waiting times for charging, however there are some obstacles to overcome first.
Probably the most impactful obstacle that must be overcome before solar vehicles become a real option is simply the fact that the technology is not yet efficient enough to make the car move. These cars that can move from solar power are built very light and low to the ground which makes them unsafe for commercial use.
Many businesses and government organisations are working to increase the efficiency of solar panels across the board. In fact, recent technologies appear to be breaking records for energy collection on a consistent basis. Some of these most promising technologies are multi-junction cells that contain layers of light-harvesters that gather energy. These innovations are likely to soon be applicable for domestic and commercial use.
One way that green car manufactures may be able to bypass the issue of inefficient solar panels is by introducing batteries that could store the power. The point here is to allow for the solar panel to work even whilst the car is not being driven, store that energy and then use it once it is required. Again, this is a great idea but in practice it involves a problem - namely the size of the battery that would be needed to run a car. It would make it so heavy that the power stored could be unable to move the vehicle.
However, some companies are making big strides towards creating batteries that will be small and light enough to practically keep energy harnessed within a car easily. For example, Tesla has released an innovative solar powered battery that can be used to run an everyday home. As this technology continues to develop, it is likely that it will be applicable to the car industry also.
For readers that live in dark and wet countries whose first thought when we mention solar powered cars is “great, but we never get any sun”. This is a very real issue and one that the industry recognises that they need to tackle. Even with lightweight storage and efficient panels in place, without sunlight solar panels won’t do anything very useful.
One recent innovation in the solar panel space may be about to change all this. In China, scientists have developed an ingenious solution that allows solar panels to harness the motion of raindrops for energy. This means that solar panelled cars will be able to generate electricity rain or shine.
These major obstacles that are currently stopping us from benefiting from solar powered cars may sound concerning. Yet, with many businesses and government organisations getting interested in this problem and recognising its importance, great progress in remedying the hardships is being done. We are living in a time where leaps in solar panel and energy storage technology is on their way to making solar powered vehicles a reality.
Giles Kirkland is an experienced car expert with passion for electric vehicles. His most recent interests revolve around the alternative sources of powering cars. Giles enjoys commenting on green automotive technologies and sustainable driving.