In this article, we talk about solar-powered transportation innovations.
According to the Soviet astronomer Nikolai Kardashev, our level of technical civilization depends on how successfully we can use the energy available to us.
To control greater sources of energy, as envisioned in sci-fi movies, and harness Earth’s energy, or even that of planets and galaxies, we will have to move beyond the exploitation of fossil fuels.
That means moving towards renewable energy sources and solar-powered transportation technologies.
As in recent years scientists and researchers have focused on solar transportation, let’s take a look at recent developments and innovations in the area.
What Are the Three Types of Civilizations?
Type 1 or Planetary
This type of civilization is one hundred years more advanced than ours, they control the energy of the entire planet (climate, volcanoes, oceans, earthquakes).
An example of this would be the world of Flash Gordon.
Type 2 or Stellar
This civilization is 10 billion times more powerful than the type 1 civilization.
It can control the energy of stars (solar storms) and move to other planets when it runs out.
Worlds of the Star Trek TV series belong to Stellar civilizations.
Type 3 or Galactic
The world of Star Wars would be the perfect example of a type 3 civilization.
This civilization would be 10 billion times more powerful than Type 2 since it can control the energy of the entire galaxy and access its regions.
Unfortunately, our civilization does not enter the scale.
We are a Type 0 civilization since our energy consumption is based on dead plants (oil, coal).
We have to stop relying on fossil fuels and move towards solar energy, the energy of the wind and water, which are sustainable and can stop pollution.
With an end to the pollution of our planet, we can achieve a healthier life and preservation of diversity on Earth.
That is why it’s clear that the future of transport on Earth rests on renewable energy sources such as solar power.
The projects and proposals of solar transportation technologies on which scientists are working represent a seed towards developing into a type 1 civilization.
Therefore, we will focus on photovoltaic energy, solar panels that gather energy to run our appliances, solar-powered and electric vehicles, and other projects that position solar power as a good alternative to fossil fuels.
The Solar Plane: The Challenge of Solar Impulse 2
Let’s take a look at one of the solar transportation innovations.
Since the development of the first photovoltaic cells 40 years ago, people have sought to use the energy of the sun to propel planes without fuel.
The project Solar Impulse set itself a big challenge: a world tour in March 2015 using solar power to run the airplane.
Veterans of numerous flights, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the two Swiss designers and pilots of the Solar Impulse solar plane, had a specific objective.
They wanted to circumnavigate the world in five stages in five days and five consecutive nights over five months.
They forecast leaving the Gulf region (Middle East) in March 2015.
Their plane, Solar Impulse 2, had a wingspan of 72 meters, wider than that of a Boeing 747, but weighed only 3 tonnes, which is the weight of a large car.
Their prototype Solar Impulse 1 has already had its first night flight and the first continental flight.
Over 17,000 photovoltaic cells designed by SunPower2 produce electricity, which powers four motors of 17.5 hp each.
The power generated through these solar panels can be stored in lithium batteries of over 600 kg.
Equipped with insoles and heated gloves to withstand the cold and special sunscreen to face the rays of the sun, each of the pilots planned to sleep in increments of twenty minutes.
However, Solar Impulse is not the first solar-powered airplane.
Are There Solar-Powered Planes Flying?
In 1974, in the United States, California, the first solar aircraft, Sunrise I, completed a 20-minute course at an altitude of 100 m.
Five years later, Solar Riser took on a pilot for the first time and flew at an altitude of 800 m.
In 1990, Sunseeker, with a pilot on board, crossed the United States in several stages, including one of 400 km.
Another remarkable aircraft, Helios, carried by NASA, reached a record altitude of 30,000 m in 2001, without a pilot.
All these achievements set the stage for the development of solar-powered aircraft that will run solely on solar power, without any other fuels.
How Do Solar Planes Work?
The principle of a solar panel is to capture the sunlight and transform it into electrical energy.
In other words, photovoltaic panels consist of semiconductor cells.
Solar power provides electricity to appliances, gadgets, and anything else that needs electricity to run.
This way, the solar-powered aircraft uses the energy of the sun to propel and operate the onboard instruments.
On solar-powered airplanes, solar panels are set on the wings (remember, Solar Impulse 2 has a wingspan of 72 meters to house solar panels that contain over 17,000 photovoltaic cells).
The excess energy produced can be stored for use at night, while a new energy supply cycle starts again at sunrise.
In this case, we can consider the possibility of an “eternal flight.”
In theory, a solar-powered airplane wouldn’t need to land to refuel and could continuously remain in the air.
Again, theoretically, solar-powered vehicles could have an energy efficiency of 100%, but the meteorological conditions (cloudless sky) and ideal irradiance are rarely reached.
Practically, the yield may not exceed 12%.
The fragility of photovoltaic cells is also an obstacle to the development of solar aviation.
Therefore, researchers still have to improve solar panels to maximize energy conversion.
Another challenge related to solar transportation is passenger transport.
Finally, solar-powered planes have poor speed performance: 80 km / h for scale models and 65 km / h for manned flights.
However, the latest prototypes of a solar-powered plane show great progress, especially in terms of autonomy and human-machine interface.
Although it will take many years for commercial exploitation to become possible, with further advancement of solar energy technologies, the future is not that far off.
After sailing the skies, it’s time to sail the seas with solar-powered technology.
The MS Turanor PlanetSolar
The MS Turanor Planet Solar launched on 31 March 2010 under the project name PlanetSolar.
A Swiss explorer, Raphaël Domjan, founded a project to build the largest solar-powered boat so far.
In May 2012, it became the first solar electric vehicle that has been sailing around the world, promoting the possibilities of solar energy in maritime transport.
The boat has a carbon structure and enough space to accommodate 40 people.
Its 537 square meters of photovoltaic panels supply the necessary energy to 6 lithium-ion batteries.
Thus, powered by solar energy, the boat can make long trips without using its emergency diesel engines.
Planet Solar has been set to sail again to carry out a scientific project: Deep Water Project.
The group of scientists consists of physicists, biologists, and climatologists of the University of Geneva, led by Professor Martin Beniston, director of the Institute of Environmental Sciences at the University.
The group will initiate continuous monitoring of the air and water of the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean.
Being powered exclusively by photovoltaic energy, the ship has no emissions of any kind that can influence the boat’s instruments and scientific measurements.
Besides, powered by renewable solar-powered energy, the boat is eco-friendly and safe.
The Deep Water Project aims to achieve a better understanding of the processes that regulate the climate.
Moreover, it also aims to help us become a Type 1 civilization, as suggested by Kardashov, so we can control the energy of the entire planet.
Cable Cars And Solar Lifts
The Swiss have proven their spirit of innovation in solar-powered technologies and multiplied technological prowess.
They are definitely at the forefront: a new solar cable car has been operating in the Stauber.
In the canton of St. Gallen, the world’s first solar cable car connects Wildhaus to the Alp-Gamplüt.
Photovoltaic systems on the roof of the mountain restaurant and the cable car hall provide the energy necessary for its operation.
Thermal solar panels are also installed on the balconies of the building.
They supply a 7000-liter tank of hot water.
In Tenna, in Graubünden, the first ski lift solely ran on solar energy came into service in 2011.
At an altitude of 1,644 meters, this 460-meter long ski lift is equipped with 82 orientable solar panels fixed between two cables.
They produce 90,000 kWh per year, three times more energy than the operation of the facility requires.
The excess is injected back into the network.
Appenzell Alps Solar Cable
At the beginning of April, the Swiss introduced a new solar-powered cable, this time in the Appenzell Alps.
The installation gives access to the Staubern Inn, at an altitude of 1800 m.
Powered by photovoltaic panels that cover the roofs of departure and arrival stations, the cable runs smoothly.
Additionally, the storage batteries allow the independence of the grid and also provide energy to the hostel.
Mainly used by hikers who descend into the valley, the 8-person cabin produces energy during the descent and recharges the batteries.
These examples inspire other stations such as that of Flims Laax Falera, which plans to be the first solar-powered station in the energy-independent world.
Electric Motorcycle That Recharges Its Batteries With Solar & Wind Energy
Electric vehicles are here to stay.
Large manufacturers are building the foundations of electric vehicles that will replace the current ones that operate on fossil fuels.
If there is a stronger political will to support this technology, undoubtedly, the world of sustainable mobility will become the norm.
Apart from the large vehicle manufacturers, several entrepreneurs work on the improvement of electric vehicles.
An example of the entrepreneurs involved in solar power and electric vehicles is Alister McInnes, an industrial design student at RMIT University in Melbourne (Australia).
He has developed an electric motorcycle prototype named StrangeWorld.
The fascinating thing about this prototype electric motorcycle is its hybrid charging system, which also offers the possibility of charging your batteries using wind or solar power.
Of course, the motorcycle can make a charge from the electricity grid.
According to Alister McInnes, the design of the electric motorcycle should be completely self-sustaining.
When taking advantage of the force of the wind, a wind energy system extracted from one of the compartments of the motorcycle comes into play.
Although the prototype of this solar-powered motorcycle is in development, its creator ensures that StrangeWorld will have a range of 500 kilometers with a single load.
At the moment, the waiting time for each charging mode is unknown.
More About StrangeWorld
Let’s talk more about the solar-powered motorcycle, StrangeWorld.
It was designed to be used in the hypothetical climatic conditions of Australia in 2050.
This is the moment at which its creator estimates that fossil fuels will be seriously scarce and we will have to look for alternative energy sources.
StrangeWorld is a completely self-sustaining solar-powered vehicle that can also use wind energy.
This machine integrates a hybrid system of wind and solar energy and a battery.
To deploy the solar charging platform, it uses a mechanism very similar to that of a tent, when the driver is making a stop.
The wind power charging system consists of a folding wind turbine located in a compartment of the motorcycle frame.
The prototype uses the electricity generated to propel itself, and the energy obtained both through the solar panels and through the wind turbine is stored in a battery inside the motorcycle chassis.
Alistair McInnes decided on a hybrid system to ensure that the electric motorcycle could obtain electricity from two different sources.
It will guarantee the prototype gets energy whether the sky is cloudy or there is no wind.
According to the calculations of its creator, StrangeWorld is self-sustaining enough to travel up to 500 kilometers with a full battery charge.
At present, the prototype of this type of electric vehicle that uses a solar-powered motor is still in development.
McInnes hopes to improve its performance in the future.
The future of solar-powered transportation is here.
Solar-powered cars equipped with solar panels are tiptoeing into the consumer car industry as companies try to find innovative methods to reduce emissions and dependence on petrol.
Electric cars have had a great boost, but there will be a boom in the coming years because of other viable technological solutions.
Solar cars can be powered by photovoltaic cells (PVC).
Photovoltaic cells are the components of solar panels that convert the sun’s energy into electricity and are formed by semiconductors, usually made of silicon, that absorb light.
The energy of sunlight releases electrons in the semiconductors, creating a flow of electrons.
That flow generates the electricity that powers the battery or the solar car’s motor.
Although it’s not easy to find “pure” solar cars at dealerships, there are models that include solar panels that power auxiliary equipment such as the radio or air conditioner.
This is the case with the Nissan Leaf and the Toyota Prius.
A “pure” solar-powered car that we can soon find in dealerships is the Sono Sion.
It is a small minivan of 1,400 kg with a capacity for five people.
The solar-powered van has 330 solar panels on an area of 7.5 square meters to cover the body.
It can travel up to 30 km just with solar energy.
Take note, however, that its battery allows it to travel up to 250 km.
Its price will be about € 16,000 plus an additional € 4,000 for the battery.
You can already make reservations for it at € 500.
LightYear One is a solar-powered electric family car that runs solely on solar energy.
According to its creators, with a full battery, it allows up to 800 km of travel and, in sunny countries, it’s capable of operating indefinitely with solar energy, without having to resort to recharging points.
Its price amounts to € 119,000.
You can already preorder it!
The “Power of One”
The “Power of One” is a solar-powered car that recorded a record distance in 2008.
5 meters wide, 80 meters in length, and 0.90 meters in height, it has already traveled over 15,000 kilometers.
It weighs 300 kg, with the pilot inside.
Thanks to the 8 square meters of solar cells placed on the roof of the vehicle, it’s capable of covering 200 km south of its batteries without sun, or 500 km in broad daylight.
The machine can reach a speed of 120 km/h and go from 0 to 85 km/h in 6 seconds.
Mö is a two-seater solar-powered car manufactured in Spain by Evovelo.
Some of the materials regenerate over time.
It’s ideal for people who need to cross a distance of between 10 and 30 km a day.
This solar-powered vehicle is economical, ecological, and capable of reaching 50 km/hour.
The batteries achieve self-sufficiency between 50 and 90 kilometers.
The vehicle can move without consuming any non-renewable resources.
Its sale price is 4,500 euros plus VAT.
What is the Future of Solar Cars?
As we can see, once electric cars were just a dream.
Now we can move towards solar-powered vehicles, which are no longer a Utopia.
For years, automotive companies have been investing in R & D & I to get where they are today.
Now, the cars of the future are already here, but there is still a long way to go.
Firstly, we need to build awareness of climate change, the powerfulness of solar power, and what we can do to help our planet heal.
One of the steps is turning to solar-powered appliances, gadgets, and transportation systems.
According to a recent study by the World Wildlife Fund, 23% of the Swedish population gave up flying to reduce CO2 emissions in 2018.
And the number of passengers in Swedish airports has dropped 8%.
This fact is directly related to the “flygskam phenomenon.”
How Harmful Is Air Travel?
Flygskam phenomenon is an environmental movement that aims to raise awareness of the harmfulness of air travel for the environment compared to other means of transport.
The Swedish word “flygskam” translates as “shame to fly.”
It was the Olympic athlete Björn Ferry who originally introduced this term.
Anyway, this word gained its momentum when the mother of activist Greta Thunberg, opera singer Malena Ernman, publicly announced that she would stop flying by plane.
Parallel to the “flygskam phenomenon,” there is another Swedish term that means “pride of traveling by train,” called “tagskryt.”
This concept consists of promoting train travel.
This mode of solar transportation has gained popularity mainly through social networks.
People have started using the #StayOnTheGround (remain on the ground) hashtag and #Tagskryt label, and sharing photographs of their rail journeys.
The Swedish team has launched another initiative to raise awareness of the environmental damage caused by domestic flights.
There is a virtual Flight2fart Converter platform, a tool allowing you to visualize and, at the same time, perform a calculation of your carbon footprint. You can also calculate the CO2 emissions a passenger generates when flying.
The interesting thing about this platform is that the results can be compared with the CO2 emissions generated by carrying out the same displacement using other means of transport.
Other activities taken into consideration in approximating the CO2 emissions are the minutes of hot water consumption, the sending of emails, the number of burgers consumed, and the like.
It should be mentioned that the calculation on this page uses the emission factors of the British government (UK Gov CO2 e per Km for aviation).
One of the alternatives to reducing the carbon footprint is the incorporation of trains that run on solar energy.
Byron Bay Solar Train
In Australia, the Byron Bay Solar train, with a route of just over three kilometers was the first train promoted by the non-profit organization, the Byron Bay Railroad Company.
The company recovered an old railroad and a disused bridge to join the centers of the two bays through a “solar train.”
This solar transportation unit operates with a single two-car convoy and was previously powered by a diesel engine.
At present, the train operates only with solar energy through photovoltaic panels incorporated in the same convoy, as well as batteries to run entirely with solar energy.
Solar Trains in India
India was also another country to incorporate solar trains.
A project promoted by the Indian Railways Organization for Alternate Fuels (IROAF) in conjunction with Integral Coach Factory has been created.
As mentioned in the promotional video, the incorporation of solar trains in the country means saving twenty-one thousand liters of diesel per year.
According to estimates, solar transportation will also reduce CO2 emissions by nine tons, per train, per year.
Today, India has more than 250 trains that are run solely with solar energy thanks to sixteen photovoltaic panels placed on top of each convoy
However, due to the weight of the panels on the deck of the trains, there are already plans to develop different solar farms in different parts of the territory.
This will, hopefully, reduce unnecessary energy consumption and alleviate the weight on the deck of each convoy.
Riding Sunbeams Project
Belgium was one of the pioneer countries in Europe to introduce trains powered by solar energy in 2011.
And, recently, a similar project has emerged in the United Kingdom to seek clean transport alternatives and reduce CO2 emissions.
This is how the Riding Sunbeams project was born with the idea of boosting the first train line that works only with solar energy.
This project is promoted by 10:10, an independent body that is trying to combat emerging climatic changes.
It involves the Community Energy South and Network Rail, the national railway operator, together with different universities such as Imperial College London and other electricity companies such as Turbo Power Systems.
The most interesting thing is that this solar transportation project was born to eliminate diesel in all trains and trams.
At the same time, it’s committed to promoting solar farms and encouraging railway operators to avoid relying on public subsidies.
The pilot test has recently been launched on the route Network Rail takes through Wessex.
The solar farm that feeds this train line is located in the town of Aldershot, about sixty kilometers from London.
About one hundred photovoltaic panels are responsible for supplying renewable energy to power both the signaling and the lights throughout the railway route.
Anyway, this solar farm in Aldershot has already powered Blackfriars station in London, although not as a single source of electricity.
The research team behind the Riding Sunbeams solar transportation project has already estimated that, in the future, solar energy could power the Merseyrail Network line in Liverpool by 20% and 15% of the routes near Kent, Sussex, and Wessex.
All these initiatives and projects demonstrate that we mentioned here testify that there is an ambition to seek clean and sustainable energy so as not to depend on fossil fuels but harness wind, water, and solar power.
For the survival of mankind, it is imperative to continuously look for clean and sustainable energy and move towards solar transportation units.
Why Are Solar Powered Cars Good For The Environment?
How To Solarize Weeds: Complete Steps & Guide
10 Best Solar Bedside Lamps & Their Reviews