The creation of a solar-powered car is an ambitious project that many enthusiasts were trying to bring to reality. Unfortunately, so far are created only partially solar-powered cars, and in this post, I’m going to describe 5 of them you can buy.
1. Lightyear One is a long-rage, solar-powered electric car that has five square meters of small solar tiles, which cover the whole futuristic vehicle, from front to back, across a curved roof. The solar car has a 60kWh battery and charges at a rate of 12 km (7.5 miles) per hour while driving. It can also use electric vehicle charging stations, which provide up to 725 km (450 miles) of range on a single charge. The solar cells are 20 percent more efficient than traditional models and can add 50 – 65 km (30 – 40 miles) of range per day. The solar cells are encased in safety glass to protect them from damage. The company says that the Lightyear One is the most aerodynamic car in the world, with a drag coefficient below 0.20, although it is still in the prototype stage.
Lightyear is the Dutch car company founded in 2016 by ex-members of Solar Team Eindhoven (STE), a team of engineering students who won the solar-powered World Solar Challenge race in 2013, 2015, and 2017. The Lightyear One car is expected to cost about €150,000 when it goes on sale in 2021.
2. A German full electric car Sono Sion developed by Sono Motors is another example of a partially solar-powered car. Thanks to its battery charge it can run 155 miles (250km). The car also has 248 solar cells spread across its body, which provide it an additional 21 miles (34km) of solar range. With a completely new manufacturing process, the solar modules are perfectly adapted to the shape of the vehicle. You can find it on the market at 25,500 EUR. The Sono Sion uses a bidirectional onboard-charger to share its power to recharge other electric vehicles.
3. The Korean car manufacture Hyundai also created a partially solar-powered car. A new version of its hybrid car Sonata (gas-electric sedan) offers built-in solar panels on its roof. The solar roof gives the car an extra 2 miles (about 3.5 km) of driving range per day, charging a car’s battery for 6 hours – both while driving and when parked in the sun. They say that between 30 and 60 percent of the car’s battery can be recharged by its solar panels. Hyundai underlines that its solar roof has a “supporting role” to its hybrid engine but for a year, it can add up to around 700 miles (1,300 km) of driving range from solar power.
The 2020 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited is the first of its kind available in the United States. The Toyota Prius Prime has a solar roof available in some overseas markets, but not in the U.S. The as-tested price of the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited comes to $36,430, which includes Hyundai’s 10-year warranty.
4. Toyota was the first major car manufacturer to offer the option with a solar roof incorporated in its Prius hybrid plug-in model in 2010. It generates about 50 watts of power, which is enough to provide energy to a fan which cools the cabin of the Prius when the engine is off. Later, in 2017 Panasonic has developed a solar photovoltaic car roof for the Prius PHEV, upping the wattage from 50 W to 180 W.
Now Toyota developed their latest model Prius with solar panels, in cooperation with Sharp and NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan). It uses such technology that lets the car’s battery charged while in the motion, not just when it is parked in a sunny place. The companies are working on attaching to the car’s surface 0.03 mm thick solar cells. They can be attached to curved areas on cars like the roof, the hood, or the hatchback.
The new model is still in the testing period, but it promises 860W at 34 percent efficiency, 44.5km on a full charge, and 56.3km if it’s recharging while driving. The companies are hoping that by using the best solar panels and the most efficient batteries available on the market, besides experience with car-manufacturing, they can create a vehicle that might run forever. “The solar car’s advantage is that, while it can’t drive for a long-range, it’s independent of charging facilities,” said project manager at Toyota, Koji Makino.
5. California’s company Aptera Motors developed the first solar-powered electric (3-wheel, 2-passenger) vehicle that will never require charging. Besides, the car has an option to drive autonomous. The solar panels integrated into the car’s body harness the sun’s rays and provide owners with a substantial amount of free solar power. You can drive 43 miles of range per day of free solar power with a total 700W: 3 square meter/180 solar cell array. This is in addition to a 1,000-mile range battery pack, which you can charge at any time. And if there is excess power you can run electrical appliances in your home. Another option that Aptera includes is to upgrade and replace the existing solar panels on the vehicle.
The Aptera solar-powered car will cost roughly between $34,000-$59,000. The Aptera is still in the prototype stage but the company claims 10,000 vehicles will be made by 2022, and they will soon be open to taking pre-orders.
Finally, out of the list, because it is not for sale, I’m going to present an impressive model of a partially solar-powered car – Stella Era.
The Stella Era is a solar-powered, autonomous 5-person family car, developed by the Solar Team Eindhoven (STE), a multidisciplinary group of students from the Technical University Eindhoven in the Netherlands. The Stella Era has a range of 1200 km (including 300 km solar) and the ability to autonomously drive to a sunny parking spot when it is parked in the parking lot. The team also says that the Stella Era isn’t just a solar-powered car, it is “a charging station on wheels”. Thankfully the innovations in charging (specifically bidirectional charging), the car can store energy and transfer it to other cars, to the grid, and into battery packs in self-sustainable homes.
So, although there is no entirely solar-powered car yet, the partially solar-powered, eco-friendly models above show that the key steps have been made and the sunny futuristic future is already here 🙂
Read also an old post: Solar-Powered Electric BlueCar soon in Europe | Solar Energy – Green Lifestyle for You