Where are all the solar cars? What you need to know

We talk a lot at SHIFT about materials innovation, especially advancements in battery ingredients, size, and range. Battery electric cars are growing mainstream with firm commitments from OEMs to replace ICEs with electric (and to a lesser extent hydrogen) powered vehicles. But there’s another form of energy that’s even older — extweb.com/news/this-solar-generator-system-can-keep-the-lights-on-when-everyone-else-goes-dark-and-its-over-25-percent-off” data-mce-href=”https://thenextweb.com/news/this-solar-generator-system-can-keep-the-lights-on-when-everyone-else-goes-dark-and-its-over-25-percent-off”>solar.

While solar has undergone a comparable revolution in photovoltaic development, a mass-produced solar car has yet to hit the market anywhere in the world. 

I wanted to know why, so I decided to do a bit of research. 

What is a solar vehicle?

Firstly, when we talk about solar vehicles, it’s vital to get the classification right. 

They can run smoothly at night or in the absence of direct sunlight as they can use their panels to store solar energy in their batteries.

Erm, so how do solar panels on cars work? 

Let’s make it easy. 

Solar panels contain photovoltaic (PV) cells. These PV cells take light, or photons, and convert it to solar electricity. When sunlight hits the solar panel, PV cells produce direct current (DC) electricity.

The electricity from this process is converted to the standard voltage by a controller, then stored in the battery. 

What are the advantages of solar-powered cars?

  • Lower electric battery charging costs 
  • No additional costs besides the eventual battery replacement
  • No noise pollution or air pollution 
  • Great for drivers who travel short distances in sunny climates
  • Can be charged with cloud cover and driven at night
  • Research into solar materials innovation is robust and could result in lighter batteries and more efficient photovoltaic cells.  

Ok, tell me the bad news

  • Solar panels convert sunlight at about a 20-35% efficiency. Thus, you need a hell of a lot to get any real power. 
  • Solar panels need to balance efficiency and weight – lighter solar panels are better for cars but may not be as effective. 
  • Highly specialist cars, which makes hyperlocal servicing more challenging. 
  • While they can operate in cloudy areas, they’re only fully optimal in sunny environments.
  • A lack of real investment by most OEMs who have added them as nice to have at the expense of sustained innovation.

How is solar energy integrated into sEVs?

Solar car roofs