In 1955, General Motors succeeded in creating the first solar-powered car, which was so small it didn’t even reach 40 centimeters. However, the technology, which at that time was only used for demonstration purposes, has developed rapidly since then, although in the last 65 years no one has been able to make a prototype of a full-sized small concept car that can be used to transport people like a conventional powered car. However, it is possible that all of this will change soon.
According to the Forbes report, the effectiveness of solar technology is limited by a number of factors. Weather conditions and proper energy storage are still issues in this regard. Based on experiments so far, it can also be concluded that we will never see a vehicle that only uses solar energy. Is that really the case?
In recent times, conventional cars have continued to develop – not only in weight but also in engine power. However, in the case of solar powered cars, reversing this process is key, as the technology is still very simple.
According to Giangiacomo Mina, a professor of engineering, so that solar-powered cars can be used in urban traffic, in addition to vehicle weight, their performance must also be lowered, because there is still a limit to how large a battery can be charged with solar energy alone. So cars also need to be energy efficient. It is also a challenge that weather factors continue to seriously affect solar technology.
Could this be the future solar car?
According to a report, significant progress has recently been made in the development of solar powered cars and their technology. In October 2020, York University and NOVA University increased the light absorption capacity of solar cells by 125 percent. Although this solution is still in the experimental phase, it gives hope that one day the cars will be completely fed by the sun.
In the summer of 2019, Lightyear launched the world’s first prototype long-range solar car. The company claims the vehicle’s solar panels are so strong that even adults can walk on them without damaging the solar panels. The car uses 83 Watt Hours per kilometer and accelerates from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in 10 seconds. Apart from solar charging, the car can also be charged at the charging station using a 230 volt socket.
And in Germany, startup Sono Motors has created Sion, the world’s first solar-powered rechargeable electric prototype. Cars are able to share the electricity they generate when needed, such as a moving energy storage unit. Depending on weather conditions, these vehicles are capable of producing sufficient energy per year for an average distance of 5,800 kilometers.
The new diesel technology can fill cars for free and without CO2 emissions while driving or when not in use, for example when standingSaid Laurin Hahn, co-founder and CEO of Sono Motors.
This vehicle is also not completely limited by weather conditions, as it is able to collect solar energy even in cloudy weather. Certainly less than ideal, but still sufficient to operate in particularly European weather conditions.
Sono Motors estimates that Zion will be able to collect enough solar energy on an average of about 16 kilometers per day in a year. This, of course, means ideal conditions: when the vehicle is well exposed to the sun, isn’t under trees or in the shade of a building, or is kept clean, and the battery isn’t fully charged and ready to charge.
It may have to be left for a while so that the car can be powered solely by solar energy. This was also pointed out by Professor Jeremy J. Michalek, a professor of electric vehicles at Carnegie Mellon University, who said a fully charged vehicle can no longer reap the benefits of solar energy. Therefore, according to the professor, the role of solar energy in driving it could be diminished, and the recharging of vehicles on the grid will continue to play an important role.
However, this does not appear to have affected Sono Motors’ potential business success. The company ran a very successful European funding campaign in late 2019, raising € 53 million in 50 days instead of the € 50 million target. So far, more than 12,000 pre-orders have been made for Zion.