What is the future for solar powered cars?
There's So Much Hype About Electric Cars, But What About The Other Eco-Friendly Options? Solar Powered Cars Are One Of Our Next Best Alternatives.
Mar 17, 2014
Over recent years, cars have become more economical and better for the environment. Recent figures show that the average CO2 emission in a car you will buy today is 25.1 per cent lower than it was in 2004. There have been advances in engineering - Ford's ultra-efficient EcoBoost engine, for example - and there are lots of hybrid and purely electric vehicles on the market today. But, could the next technological leap see the sun power our cars? We look at the future for solar powered vehicles. Ford solar powered cars
Ford unveils a concept solar powered car
In January 2014, Ford unveiled its C-MAX Solar Energi Concept car. Here, the version of the automaker's popular plug-in electric hybrid hatchback is equipped with 1.5 square meters (16 square feet) of photovoltaic panels that charge the vehicle's lithium-ion battery pack. So, could solar cars be the next big thing? Well, in order for that to happen there are a number of challenges facing the motor industry. First is the issue that it is difficult for a car's solar array to gather enough power to move the car. The way that solar cars gather and store power is also a big issue. Solar power can be used for buildings and other constructions because they are regularly exposed to the sun and they have the ability to use batteries to store the energy the sun generates. A large battery pack with enough storage to power the car from sunset to sunrise would make an electric car far too heavy. This means that solar-powered car would have to be in the sun at nearly all times to be effective - not much use in a rainy or dark country. To get around two of these problems, Ford and the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a solar canopy featuring a roof made of Fresnel lenses that concentrate the sun on the panels to boost power production. The idea is that you park your C-Max under the canopy and, during the day, the car autonomously moves several feet to track the sun to maximize electricity generation. Ford estimates it will take six to seven hours to fully charge the battery, which has a range of 21 miles and the car has a gasoline-powered engine that kicks in when the battery is drained. Mike Tinskey, Ford's director of global vehicle electrification and infrastructure, said: "It could be for the home, corporate campuses or developing countries where there is no grid." He also notes that the sun could fuel about 75 per cent of the daily trips typically made by a Ford C-Max driver. "In our mind, this is something we think is going to be a really cool thing for the next generation of plug-in electric hybrids." Tinskey says Ford will spend 2014 testing the concept to prove that it could work in full-scale production. The other issue with solar powered cars is the high cost of the solar panels themselves. The type of solar panels used on solar-powered cars is very expensive - indeed a competitive solar-powered racing car can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. To make solar powered cars cost-effective, more research has to be done on finding cheaper ways of manufacturing the panels. Ford solar powered cars
Solar power may help motoring in other ways
While solar cars may be some years away, solar power is being utilised in other ways to help power existing electric vehicles. For example, owners of Tesla's Model S el