Electric cars have become increasingly popular with time. But even among electric cars, there are so many different variants. The world of electric cars is evolving every day. People are turning towards EVs not only for the sake of the environment but also because they can be more affordable in the long run.
The fact remains that electric cars are far more expensive than conventional fuel cars.
However, electric cars are a one-time investment that can save money in the long run. If you already know much about the electric car, you wouldn’t be new to electric cars with solar panels. They’re the next step into the future.
But how do these cars work, and why aren’t more people talking about it? Read on to find an answer to all your queries.
What are Electric Cars with Solar Panels?
It’s a no-brainer that electric cars are powered through electricity. While electricity can be generated in different ways, the most eco-friendly option is to create it through solar power.
Generally, if people want to cut back on the running cost of electric cars, they consider investing in solar panels.
It’s not uncommon for electric car users to install solar panels in their homes. That way, they can charge their electric vehicle practically for free.
A solar panel-powered car would indeed mean no electricity bills, but at the same time, solar panel installation is not exactly budget-friendly.
However, with so many incentives and flexible financing options, more people are interested in investing in solar panels.
But electric cars with solar panels are a bit different. In this case, the solar panels would be fitted directly onto the cars, and they can self-charge when out in the sun. That sounds like a great idea, right? So why aren’t electric car manufacturers using this idea more gradually?
Well, there is a whole history behind it. Let’s understand how this concept first started.
When Was the First Electric Car with Solar Panels Invented?
The history of electric cars with solar panels dates back to the ’50s. On August 31, 1955, William G. Cobb was the first person ever to introduce the idea of a solar-powered car.
Rather than an actual car, the General Motors employee came up with a miniature design of an electric car with solar panels.
The prototype car consisted of 12 photovoltaic cells attached to the car’s roof. These cells utilized solar energy to power the car’s engine.
While it certainly was a great idea, but at the time, it didn’t escalate because of multiple reasons.
For starters, solar-powered cars weren’t suitable for running long distances. This proved to be true when Sunmobile created a regular-sized solar-powered car. In fact, at that time, the cars available weren’t suited for running on solar power.
But in 1960, a US-based company called International Rectifier used a 1912 model Electric Baker and converted it into a solar-powered vehicle. But the car could only go up to 12 miles per hour in three hours. But it was a start.
Evolution of Electric Cars with Solar Panels
After the prototype was introduced in 1955, many others worked on building an electric car with solar panels. In 1977, the Bluebird was introduced. It was a three-wheeled car that was powered by solar energy.
The car consisted of photovoltaic cells rather than a battery. The cells captured solar energy to make the car run. But this car, too, wasn’t equipped to run for long distances. But it was a start that led to solar cars being further evolved into what we see them today.
Later in 1982, the Quiet Achiever was launched, becoming the first-ever solar-powered car that could run long distances. It was a huge milestone in the automobile industry because everyone thought that this was a fruitless idea before that.
This electric car with a solar panel covered a distance of approximately 2485 miles in 20 days at most.
In 1985, a car race was held in Switzerland, which showcased multiple electric cars with solar panels. The event gave birth to the use of solar panels in race cars.
They are still in use to this day. Solar cars are most abundantly used in the world of racing, but they are yet to reach the stage where average citizens can use them.
Modern-Day Electric Cars with Solar Panels
As you’re already aware by now, electric cars with solar panels are currently used for racing, but that’s not all. Multiple car companies have introduced solar-powered electric cars in the modern era.
Lightyear One is one of the most popular modern-day solar electric vehicles. It can easily cover a distance of 435 miles solely on solar power.
Moreover, the voltaic cells it uses can store 20% more energy than traditional cells. But something that good doesn’t come cheap. Because it is so expensive, it’s not yet a feasible option for most consumers.
But the fact remains that it is a promising model that everyone could use in the near future, given that it becomes more affordable.
Another famous electric car with solar panels is Sono Sion. This popular vehicle by Sono Motors has a black exterior that looks just like any other ordinary car. But if you look closely, you’ll find the body of this car embedded with multiple solar panels.
To be more precise, this solar-powered car utilizes solar energy by a total of 248 solar cells. Due to its battery, this car can run for 155 miles, but thanks to solar cells, it adds 21 miles extra to the total capacity.
Rather than eliminating the need for charging like in other electric cars, this car simply supplements the charging process with the help of solar panels. That’s why it isn’t as expensive as Lightyear One, but it is still costly.
In a nutshell, even the latest models aren’t perfect and have a lot of room for improvement. But then again, nothing is ever truly perfect. But you can expect these cars to grow in the upcoming days.
What are the Pros and Cons of Electric Cars with Solar Panels?
Solar cars either use photovoltaic cells or solar panels to utilize solar energy. Generally, they consist of batteries made of:
- Nickel-cadmium battery
- Nickel-metal hydride battery
- Lithium-ion battery
- Lithium polymer ion battery
Electricity is produced in these cars via the battery. They are a green option, but they come with their fair share of pros and cons, just like everything else. So here is a detailed list of the pros and cons of electric cars with solar panels:
Let’s start with the main advantages of solar-powered electric cars.
1. Safer for the Environment
One of the biggest reasons solar cars are so popular is that they’re safer for the environment. This is especially important in today’s world, given the current climatic conditions.
With the ever-increasing climate change, more people are turning their attention towards green alternatives.
Since there is no need to use conventional fuels that create carbon-gas emissions, you’re not harming the environment when using an electric car with solar panels.
Plus, solar energy is also an environmentally friendly alternative for producing electricity. So, for environmental enthusiasts, solar cars are the ideal option.
Check out, How Much Does an Electric Car Weigh?
2. Plentiful Energy Source
Unlike other sources, solar is abundantly available by its nature. You won’t have to worry about the sun running out of energy. You can use it to charge your car throughout the day.
This way, the solar panels on an electric car can produce and store more power than you can use freely without ever worrying about solar energy being unavailable.
3. Little to No Fuel Cost
There is no need to worry about fuel costs when you go completely solar. Since all the energy is obtained directly from the sun, you don’t need to pay every time you fuel the car.
Instead, the car will charge itself. Not only does it save you money, but it is also a lot more convenient.
Let’s now move on to the disadvantages of electric cars with solar panels to see why they aren’t as commonly available today.
1. Weather Changes
One of the biggest obstacles in the way of making solar-powered cars more common is the weather change. If you rely solely on solar energy, you’ll have to see how much sun you get in your area.
If there’s less sun time, a solar-powered car is not a feasible option. Moreover, you’ll have to have energy stored at all times if you plan to drive at night.
2. High Battery Cost
While solar offers little or no fuel costs, on the flip side, it costs a lot to install solar panels and batteries. They’re generally really expensive and require replacement after a certain time. This makes maintenance of solar cars quite costly.
3. Storage Capacity
The storage capacity of an electric car with solar panels depends on the type of battery used. But generally, they can only store energy to a limited amount.
Moreover, these batteries can only convert around 15 to 30 percent sunlight into electricity, which is not a lot.
Future of Electric Cars with Solar Panels
Solar-powered cars are advantageous, but they are not yet perfect enough to replace conventional cars powered by fossil fuel or even simple electric cars. But they hold promise, and they might take the automobile market by storm in time.
Another alternative to going green is to charge your electric cars with solar panels at home. Many people have invested in solar panels for their homes. But a car with solar panels is a lot more feasible.
In a way, they are the future that the automotive sector is heading towards, as these cars are full of opportunities.
The good thing about drawbacks is that there is always a way to overcome them. So, even though an electric car with solar panels comes with a few flaws, there is a way to overcome them.
So you can expect these cars to flourish and become more common in the coming years.
Our Final Thoughts
An electric car with solar panels can become the next big thing, and many manufacturers are working on making it consumer-friendly. But today, they aren’t feasible due to the high cost of batteries and maintenance of solar panels.
Moreover, weather changes are something that is out of anyone’s control. Besides, the energy conversion rate of the batteries doesn’t match consumer needs.
Another alternative is to use solar power as a supplement, which is a great initiative, and such cars can definitely steal a spot for themselves in the market.
As more and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of fossil fuel and its impact on the climate, solar electric cars are gaining more importance.
One thing is for sure; if the current market trends continue to grow, conventional fuel cars will become obsolete and electric cars will take their place. Who knows, maybe an electric car with solar panels could become the most widely used car one day.
Related electric car articles:
- What to Do When Your Electric Car Runs Out of Charge?
- How Much Does it Cost to Convert a Car to Electric
- Should I Buy a Used Electric Car?
- Are electric cars eco-friendly?
- What Would Happen if Everyone Switched to an Electric Car
- Solar Electric Car Charger
My name is Matthew, staying in Seattle, Washington. Electric Vehicles (Electric Cars & Electric bikes) caught my attention for the last few years and my love for electric cars and bikes is everlasting. I spend many of my weekends traveling to various places all over various cities with my electric vehicle (e-bike and electric car). Here I am sharing my expertise, experience, and invaluable information about electric cars and electric bikes. Check out more.