With the world solar challenge not even 2 weeks away let’s take a look at this emerging technology and the possible future of cars. Contrary to popular belief humans might end up relying on this technology far more than expected, with the natural resources vanishing at a fast pace, the Sun might be the only saviour.
Since the solar powered cars are a bit different from the petrol/diesel cars that we see today they have quite a unique design and special materials used are:
- · Photovoltaic solar panels- They are the power source of the car, and usually very delicate and expensive.
- · Titanium composites- These are lightweight materials usually used to manufacture fighter jets.
- · Batteries-Lead acid batteries used in conventional cars are too heavy, therefore nickel-metal hydride batteries (NiMH), Nickel-Cadmium batteries ( NiCd), Lithium ion batteries or Lithium polymer batteries are usually used.
- · Carbon fibre
- · Fibre glass
- · Narrow wheels- to reduce friction with the ground
Also since the cars in the race are hand made by specialized teams, the cost rises in addition to the materials used.
- · Efficiency- Solar energy powered cars can utilize their full power irrespective of the speed, unlike conventional cars.
- · No expense required for running the car.
- · No annoying noise made by solar cars; unlike conventional cars, solar cars are quiet.
- · Solar cars are a very low maintenance affair.
- · One of the biggest advantages- Solar cars do not produce harmful emissions.
- · Solar cars don’t have the speed or power that regular cars have.
- · In the absence of the Sun solar cars can only operate for a limited distance. If there is no sunlight for many days, the car battery will not charge.
- · A good solar powered car is expensive, about $200,000 or more.
- · Solar car parts are not produced in bulk, hence are expensive.
The disadvantages seem to outweigh the advantages, hence the solutions for this are:
- · Installing super chargers, the one like Tesla motors just came up with, storing power in big batteries and recharging stations could help customers in times bad weather and cloudy days.
- · Since the solar cars are a rarity hence the car parts are expensive, once mass production of these car parts starts it will reduce the cost upto a great extent.
- · To increase the efficiency of solar cars we could possibly come up with some sort of hybrid versions for these cars. The hybrid versions will not only increase speed but also power of the car. A combination of wind power and solar power might prove to be beneficial. Also regenerative breaking could be of great help in this respect.
If the solar car were to make its mark in human history, the right time would be now. After the autonomous cars the solar cars would be a big achievement in world of technology, let’s cross our fingers and hope for the best.