Looking at how the level of technology is improving every day, most inventors are doing their best to come up with the best inventions that will wow the world.
When solar-powered cars were first introduced to the world, they let to significant relief to many consumers, especially those that were buying readily available gas-electric hybrid vehicles.
The level at which solar-powered car works, makes them a better and attractive option, especially for those looking for more ecologically friendly personal transportation.
Therefore, the researchers are continuing to develop affordable, reliable solar-powered vehicles.
Even though solar-powered vehicles, for example, solar boats are widespread and available commercially, they have not become transportation devices yet.
Therefore, such vehicles are mostly manufactured for the main reason for racing competitions and doing engineering exercises, and often, they’re sponsored by government agencies.
Basically, a solar-powered car works on the same principle as a house that is powered by solar panels.
The solar panels have photovoltaic cells that are made of semiconductors to help to convert sunlight into electricity that is used to power the electric motor.
Some types of solar-powered cars convert the electricity directly to an electric motor while others, usually use the obtained power to help in fueling the battery that runs the engine.
Now another question that you might be thinking about is if solar-powered cars can run during the night.
Then the answer is probably yes, solar-powered cars can run at night.
During the day, the energy from the solar panel is used to charge the battery to be used during the night when there is no sunlight or when there are adverse weather conditions.
In this post today, we will be looking at the benefits of solar-powered cars so that you can understand better why most innovators have chosen this alternative of making solar-powered vehicles.
1. No Emission of Gases to the Atmosphere
Solar-powered cars do have electric motors.
The solar-powered cars operate by converting sunlight into electrical energy using photovoltaic cells.
Therefore, these cars burn no fuel, and they do not produce emissions.
These features made many motorists fall in love with these types of cars, especially those that wish to utilize their transportation without contributing to air pollution to the environment.
Solar power is pollution-free, and it does not cause fossil gases that can be emitted to the atmosphere.
The only way solar energy can lead to pollution is during the manufacturing of the panels and also during transportation, but here the level of pollution is not that much, but after that everything will be normal, and nothing will lead to such emissions.
2. Preservation of Natural Resources
Even if the solar panels and other components of solar-powered cars consume energy and resources initially during the making, solar-powered cars will require no addition of energy and input.
This is because solar-powered cars do not need any kind of fuel or oil changes, and therefore their dependence on petroleum products is small, maybe just for lubrication of the wheels or replacement of the parts using plastic.
Most of the parts of solar-powered cars, such as the electric motor and other components, are mostly maintenance-free as compared to the engines of the gas-powered vehicles.
Therefore, through using solar-powered cars, you will be able to save on natural resources with a significant percentage because such types of cars do not need fuel and other natural resources
3. There Are No Fuel Costs
Always the energy from the sun is unlimited and free, but getting the solar panels is relatively expensive.
However, as the technology is evolving very first, the prices of solar panels are declining, and it will come to a time when the panels will be very affordable, and almost everyone will be able to afford one.
Also, another important thing about the solar panels is that their lifespan is high, approximately 30 years, which is more than even the lifespan of a car.
Now that the solar-powered cars lack independence of the external fuel sources, they’re very free from the fuel costs that are associated with gas, and diesel.
The unique feature of these cars is that they use solar energy to operate, and once installed.
There is no need for other costs, such as fuel and engine oils.
A straightforward example of the solar-powered car is that it only needs the owner to spend a few dollars to charge its battery from a power outlet.
The energy that is harnessed from the sunshine has no direct costs that are associated with it, and since the sun is a natural resource, it provides power to be used for free.
Therefore, this is a better way if you’re tired of spending a lot of money on fuel for your solar-powered cars because when you have a solar-powered car, then all the problems will have gone.
4. Comfortable While Driving
The solar-powered cars are powered by electric motors, which are relatively smaller than that of the gas engine, and usually, they do operate without causing any noise or vibrations.
Another important thing about this car is that it can also be designed to be light in weight and hence allowing for faster turning and stopping.
This is the main reason why most of the solar-powered cars are used for racing and practical by students.
These cars also have high speeds because they’re made light and very low to the ground and even with a broad base.
5. Modest Available Power
When the bright sunshine falls on the earth’s surface, it usually amounts to around 1,000 watts per square meter.
Now when you convert that power into the useful electricity, it only amounts to around 20% efficiency hence reducing the amount of energy that is available to about 200 watts per meter squared.
Even if you can mount the solar panel on a car that is just some square meters in size and therefore resulting in only 2 kilowatts at most.
Most of the motors available in electric cars usually are rated at about 100Kw or even 50 times more than that of the solar panel, which can provide on its own.
Now the solution to this is that you will need a smaller motor, a battery to store the solar energy over several days, and a plugin option to help with the connection to the car power outlet.
6. The Renewable, Clean Energy Source
Since solar energy is a renewable source, the sunlight that you use today will still be there tomorrow, and also the sun will continue to shine billions of years to come.
Also, during the making of the solar panels, the manufacturer usually uses some hazardous materials, but the end-product does not generate any type of gases or emissions to the environment.
Now when you compare the solar-powered cars and the traditional power cars about their effects on the atmosphere.
The non-renewable nature of the fossil fuels that are used by the traditional power cars has a limited amount of oil available, and therefore burning it will produce carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions to the atmosphere.
Now it’s only the solar cars that do not burn such fossil fuels because when driving hence keeping the environment clean and free from carbon dioxide.
7. There Are No Energy Costs
Commonly, every other vehicle technology such as gasoline, diesel, or electric cars usually is associated with energy costs.
For example, an electric car will require the owner to spend a few dollars to charge its battery from the power outlet.
On the other hand, gas-powered cars will need the owner to spend some money on the purchase of fossil fuels and biofuels.
But now, when you look at the solar-powered cars, they use solar energy directly from the sunlight, and here, there are no direct costs that are associated with it since the sun is a natural resource that will provide energy every day whether you use it or you do not.
8. The Solar-Powered Cars Are Barebones
Since most of the solar-powered cars are typically developed for the main reason of competition, they’re generally designed for very low wind resistance.
These cars are made very flat and very low to the ground with none of the accessories, drivers take for granted, i.e. headlights, wipers, and rear mirror.
Their bodies are covered with photovoltaic cells, which helps to optimize the amount of solar energy that they collect.
Now that these cars regularly travel at average highway speeds, getting into these kinds of speeds is very hard because they have their motors rated at 7 kilowatts or 9.4 horsepower.
These cars prove that solar power normally works under ideal conditions, but most of the work remains with the automakers who will offer a practical solar-powered car for everyday use.
9. Development of Technology
Solar energy has brought to the growth of technology since it came into reality.
The innovation of solar-powered cars was one of the best because, through it, many people have realized how solar cars are better as compared to traditional gas-powered cars.
When you compare the technology that was there before and the one that is there today, you will realize that many things have changed, and things are moving in a different direction.
I am looking forward to the days when solar-powered cars will be used commonly in public transport and private transport and not only for sporting as it’s now.
10. Low Maintenance Costs
Usually, solar energy systems do not require a lot of maintenance.
The only thing that you’re supposed to do is simply to keep them clean, and that’s just cleaning them several times per year.
Now in case you might be in doubt, you can be sure to give it to a specialized cleaning company to do it for you.
For this service, they usually charge around $25- $35 for the offer.
Another important thing about the solar panels is that the manufacturers usually give an offer of between 20 and 25 years of warranty.
The reason for this is because there are no moving parts and also with solar panels, there is no wear and tear.
The only thing that can be changed on a solar panel is the inverter, and this can be done after 5-10 years due to its continuous conversion of solar energy into useful electricity and heat.
Other things that also need maintenance are the cables to ensure that your solar system runs at the perfect efficiency.
So now, when you’re done with the initial costs of purchasing a solar panel and the installation, you will expect very few dollars to spend on repair and maintenance.
Disadvantages of Solar Energy
Of course, we cannot finish this topic without also looking at the disadvantages that come along with these types of cars.
Everything always has their positive sides and negative sides, and that’s the reason why we also have to look at the disadvantages of solar-powered cars.
1. High Initial Costs
The initial costs of purchasing solar systems are relatively high.
Before you set up a solar system, for example, you will need other things such as solar panels, inverter, batteries, and wires for installation.
Therefore, purchasing all these materials requires a high amount of money and hence, a disadvantage for an ordinary person to do it.
But there is hope because as technology is improving every day, there is high hope that the prices of solar will continuously go down.
2. Weather Dependent
Even if solar energy can still be collected during rainy and cloudy seasons, the efficiency of the solar system also drops.
We can now comfortably say that solar energy is directly dependent on the weather condition, and therefore, when there is good weather, the amount of solar energy to be collected is high that the vice versa is true.
Usually, the solar panels highly depend on the sunlight to effectively collect solar energy efficiently.
Therefore, this means that there is no way you can collect solar energy during the night because there will be no sunlight.
3. Storing Solar Energy is Relatively Expensive
Since solar energy can only be collected during the night, it has to be stored, and the only way to store it’s through the batteries.
These batteries are charged during the day so that it can be used during the night when the sun is not available.
This process is the best solution for using solar energy even if it’s somehow expensive since you need to have the batteries.
4. The Solar Panel Uses a Lot of Space
If you want to generate a lot of power from the sunlight, then it means that you will need to have more solar panels to collect as much sunlight as possible.
The solar PV panels require much space, and therefore, the top roof could not be big enough to fit the number of panels needed.
Now, if you do not have that enough space that is required to fit the high number of panels, then you will opt for fewer panels.
5. Causes Pollution During the Manufacture of Solar Panels
When manufacturing the solar panels, there are hazardous materials that are used that are associated with pollution.
Also, the transportation and installation of the solar systems have been associated with emissions of gases to the ozone layer.
But comparing how solar energy pollutes the environment and also the fuel-powered cars, the solar energy pollutes less.
History About the First Solar Racing Challenge
Inventors are working day and night to minimize the problems that are associated with solar-powered cars.
Their much focus is on the battery systems that will help to offer high-density energy to power the car when there is bad weather and at night.
They’re also doing a lot of research to design solar panels on the cars that are efficient to be used by these cars.
There is a very famous race that is known as the world solar challenge, which is held 2 to 3 years from Darwin to Adelaide in Australia.
The racing challenge is always held in this place because there is lots of sunshine, and the race is about 3,006 Km long.
Vivianne and Stewart Lister were the first people who designed and built a solar-powered car and entered it into the 1993 race.
This story can be found in the “School Journal part 4, number 3, 1994” if you’re interested in getting more information about how this happened.
To give you a brief history of Vivianne and Stewart, they constructed an extensive solar panel across the top of their car.
The then tried to make the panel somehow adjustable so that it could easily be moved to face the sun’s direction, and therefore, this was a great idea because they could just keep on going all day by just tilting the solar panel.
Along the way, there was a problem, though, because their car became unstable due to the high speeds, and consequently, their average speed was at 50km/h.
One day, a great wind picked up the car to about 10 meters high and then dumped it into the rocks and trees 1bout 100 meters off the road.
Other problems that they experienced during that trip were extreme heat in the cockpit while driving, and the battery that they had was not able to store enough energy that could be used during the cloudy weather.
Also, another problem they experienced was that the batteries they had were tremendous, and therefore, they took a lot of space.
Despite all the problems and the challenges they experienced along the way, Vivianne and Steward managed to finish the race in the first position in their class.
The research and development in solar energy technology are continuing to grow each day as the sun rises and sets in the evening.
The cars are getting faster, and many big companies such as Toyota are looking for more efficient cells and battery technology.
The batteries that most companies are interested in are the lighter kind of batteries that can hold more energy.
Now from the world solar challenge that was first held in the year 1987, the average speed of the winner was around 67km/h.
For the challenge that helped in the year 2007, the average speed of the winner was about 91km/h, which is an increment when you compare with the one that was held in 1987.
Now we have arrived at the end of our topic today about the benefits of solar-powered cars and their problems.
We discussed the various benefits of solar-powered cars, for example, no pollution, low maintenance cost, no fuel costs, free and renewable solar energy, and high speed.
We also looked at the problems that might be associated with solar-powered cars, and we said that the issues include; high initial cost, solar panels take much space, weather dependent, and pollution during manufacturing.
From there, we also looked at a little history about the first world racing challenge that took place in the year 1987.
We talked about Vivianne and Stewart, who were the participants in the race challenge and emerged the winner with the average speed of 67km/h.
Now at the end of this lesson, what do you think about the future?
Do you think solar-powered cars will be of benefit to the world or will just be another problem from hell?
Let’s hear from you in our comment section below what your idea is.
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