Technology has made our lives comfortable and we can quickly move around using vehicles on roads, water, and air; with solar transportation technologies, we eliminate the need for (the already depleted reserves of) fossil fuels and turn to renewable energy sources.
Electric vehicles are not in the future; they are already around us.
However, technological advancement allows us to find better ways to power our vehicles in an eco-friendly and reliable way.
In this article, we will examine the different types of solar transportation, their possibilities, and scientific achievements.
1. Solar-Powered Cars
Solar power was developed in the 1950s, at the same time as electric cars.
These two transportation technologies are in the process of merging.
Actually, electric cars are not a new invention; they have been around for some time now.
Nonetheless, solar energy is renewable and sustainable; it uses photovoltaic cells to convert sunlight into electricity.
And, as you already know, electricity is needed to power electric cars.
Therefore, the future of electric cars relies on the development of solar technologies.
Solar cells gather the energy of the sun, convert it, and charge batteries that allow us to run the vehicle during evenings and nights.
Scientifically, solar power is advantageous as there is no emission of gases into the atmosphere.
With the reduction of pollution that comes with fossil fuel exploitation, solar cars will help us protect and conserve the environment, making our ecosystems clean and safe.
So far, the fastest solar-powered car is Sunswift, developed at New South Wales University for solar racing.
Sunswift VII is currently in the production process, and we are curious to see the technological innovation implemented in this new model.
Overall, solar electric cars:
- Save money on fuel
- Are environmentally-friendly
- Don’t cause noise and air pollution
- Don’t have hidden additional costs (except for the battery replacement)
2. Solar Trains
Solar trains are another type of solar transportation we can expect to become common in the future.
The first solar-powered railway track appeared in the UK, while researchers are working on similar projects in India and Australia.
The converted electricity flows directly from solar panels and electrifies train tracks.
In the future, solar trains could play a massive role in the transportation sector.
The photovoltaic panels placed near the rails make the solar-powered trains move.
By doing so, the generated electricity triggers a traction current distributed to the grid.
Developers are working on making the whole process of energy conversion more convenient and efficient.
The goal is to develop a reliable, fast, and environmentally friendly transportation system.
3. Solar Planes
When it comes to technological innovation, inventors are not restricting their ideas to the ground.
Although they are still not commercially viable, solar planes have taken an impressive flight.
The Solar Impulse 2 is a solar-powered airplane that finished its first flight around the world in 2018.
The plane had over 17,000 solar cells on its wings to be able to fly.
So, this plane’s wings were wider than that of a Boeing 747.
The solar plane crossed both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans without using any fossil fuels.
It spent over 23 days in the air.
Now, the company is looking for 1,000 best profitable solutions.
Another company that has developed a solar-powered plane is Airbus.
It managed to fly for 25 days, 23 hours, and 57 minutes using solar energy.
Airplanes that run on solar are:
- Environmentally friendly, as they don’t release gases into the atmosphere
- Economical in the long run since they reduce fuel costs
Therefore, scientists continuously work on the development of transportation technologies to create reliable and economical vehicles that will eliminate the need for traditional fossil fuels.
4. Solar Bikes and Scooters
Electric bicycles and scooters are a common type of transportation technologies commonly used around the world.
With new solar technologies, the electric motor will get its power from the solar panels that will store the electricity into the accumulators so that it can be used whenever needed.
Today, this type of solar transportation has mounted solar cells that can be tilted into different angles, allowing them to face the sun.
The first group of solar-powered bikes raced almost 13,000 km from France to China.
It was a journey that lasted for 64 days.
Now, there’s Veemo, a fully closed electric-assist bicycle with an 80-watt solar panel on the roof that charges the battery.
Veemo is a secure method of solar transportation that reduces the emission of carbon dioxide and efficiently deals with the traffic in big cities.
A type of Veemo that is currently most affordable is the Daymak Photon.
A solar panel located on the base of the scooter powers it at all times and charges it even when not regularly used.
An awesome feature of this solar-powered scooter is that it has speakers and a USB port where you can charge your phone or play music.
This solar transportation idea is great for traveling shorter distances.
5. Solar Roads
Large areas mainly construct roads.
Solar used in the construction of roads generates energy.
Solar Roadways, a company based in Idaho, made over $2 M in 2014 fundraising for the campaign of its hexagon-shaped road tiles.
These road tiles contain cells, LED lights, a heating element, and wireless communication capabilities.
The company had received 3 phases of funding from the U.S Department of Transportation for research development.
This is the idea behind this whole process.
China tests these roads, too.
A Chinese company created a complex polymer panel that is similar to plastic.
But, it has slightly more friction than the conventional road surface.
The company is continuing to test for the right amount of friction.
It’s continuing to find out the best way to reduce costs and increase the panel’s resiliency.
6. The Solar Impulse Of The Sea
Solar-powered planes, Solar Impulse 2, inspired this solar-powered ship.
The solar-powered boat was made at the cost of about $4.2 million.
The west coast of French docks the solar-powered boat.
It might seem to start its maiden voyage spanning 6 years.
At this time, it won’t harness its renewable energy solely from solar power.
Wind turbines and other autonomous electrolysis equipment also fit the boat to help in the production of hydrogen.
The harnessed hydrogen powers the boat in bad weather conditions.
It can also be used at night when there is no sunlight.
This solar-powered boat requires about $4 million each year to complete its voyage.
7. The Elf
The Elf is also known as the Velomobile.
This solar-powered vehicle is a crossover between a car, a bicycle, and a motorcycle.
It’s a type of vehicle that can accommodate solar power, electricity, and also human power to run.
With this mode of solar transportation, the driver can choose how to ride it.
You can select either to peddle or turn on the motor, which runs on a 480 W lithium battery.
Its battery can be fully charged only in less than 2 hours or slowly throughout the day.
Especially when the sun is present using the paneled roof.
You can drive it anywhere without any road restrictions.
It can run for 30 mph for 48 miles when fully charged.
Aluminum that is recycled weighing 72.5748 kg constructs its frame.
It can hold cargo weighing around 158.757 kg in its compartment.
Gamera is a solar-powered helicopter built by the university students of Maryland.
The helicopter took off successfully with a passenger in the cockpit just using solar power alone.
The plane is said to have managed to levitate 0.3048 m above the ground.
It stayed in the air for about 9 seconds.
Since the plane may not be able to operate on long-distance flights, it has inspired and encouraged many students to choose renewable energy solutions for their engineering innovations.
9. Solar-Powered Tuk-Tuk
A 35-year-old Indian automotive engineer decked out a Tuk-Tuk with solar panels for a tour.
The engineer started his journey in February in India and ended it on 16th September in London.
This trip could have ended even sooner if it were not for the small mishaps in Paris where his passport got stolen.
Also, the battery packs died.
For the whole of this trip, a bed, a passenger seat, a cupboard for his food that he received from the people, and also a solar-powered cooker were equipped by the Tuk-Tuk.
The engineer said that he did that to educate people about the ecological benefits of solar systems.
The idea came up while he was trapped in the suffocating Mumbai traffic jam.
This inspired him to tackle pollution.
10. Solar-Powered Pipes
Solar-powered pipes also use the same principle to operate.
The pipes have solar panels.
The panels have specialized cells called photovoltaic cells to help in the conversion of solar energy into electricity.
Batteries store some amount of energy.
This will be used when there is no sunlight.
This is an essential process because it saves on costs such as fuel costs.
Also, solar systems help in the reduction of pollution in the environment caused by fossils.
What Are The Advantages Of Solar Technology?
People have created many solar roads.
In the future, people will use solar technology widely as it doesn’t cause environmental pollution and other negative impacts.
1. More Electricity At Lower Cost
The International Journal of Electrical and Electronics conducted research.
The research shows that if a solar-paneled roadway surfaces the U.S. interstate highway system, it would produce more than 3 times the amount of electricity used nationwide at the moment.
From the estimation, the highway panels would need replacement less often than asphalt.
It could produce about $15 per square meter each year of electricity.
This technology has created a lot of employment opportunities.
Panel development and installation bring even more jobs in the construction industry and also the solar industry.
3. Cleaner Energy Generation
Solar energy is good for both the environment and the economy.
It reduces pollution caused by fossil fuel exploitation that could lead to global warming.
4. Safer Road Conditions
Solar-paneled roads significantly improve road conditions affected by bad weather.
Hence, mitigating the effects of snow and ice through heating fixtures inside each unit.
It could make the surface some degrees above freezing.
This helps to eliminate the need to use the tax on salt and salt trucks.
This technology has the potential to minimize traffic jams.
It also minimizes accidents caused by the build-up of ice and snow on the highway.
The solar-paneled roads also equip LED lights.
This is to ensure better vision and allow driving during the night.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Solar Energy?
1. High Initial Costs
The high price includes paying for solar panels, inverters, batteries, wiring, and installation.
Solar technologies are continually developing even with the high initial cost.
This means that prices will go down in the days to come.
2. Dependency On Weather Conditions
The efficiency of the solar system drops when it’s cloudy or raining.
So, the solar panels highly depend on the sunlight for the effective gathering of solar energy.
Therefore, a few cloudy, rainy seasons will have an impact on the energy system.
3. Expensive Storage of Solar Energy
Solar energy is only available during the day.
If you want to use it at night, then you will have to store it in batteries.
Therefore, the only possibility could be just using solar energy during the day.
At night, you use energy from the grid.
Only the system connected to the grid is possible to do this.
Then, this is the better option.
If you want to produce more electricity, then, you will need to have more solar panels.
You will want to collect as much sunlight as possible.
Solar PV panels always require a lot of space.
Some roofs are not as big enough to hold a high number of panels to access sunlight.
Transportation and installation are related to the emission of greenhouse gases.
The manufacturing process of solar photovoltaic cells uses some toxic materials.
These materials can affect the environment.
But, fossil fuels cause more pollution that is more dangerous than this.
With a solar panel that collects the energy of the sun, there are no dangerous gas emissions.
For that reason, we see solar electric vehicles as the best eco friendly option for travel.
What Is The Future Of Solar Transportation?
According to the United States Department of Transportation, over 4 million miles of highways and streets cover are built across the US.
Remember that the technology of solar-paneled roads is not only for the highways and the streets.
It is also for the driveways, parking lots, sidewalks, or just any paved surface.
Some factors are affecting solar road technology such as decreased efficiency, expense, effects of wear and tear, and also the risk of theft.
If each panel costs around $7,000 to produce, then, the decrease in the price would lead to an increase in production.
Therefore, the widespread of solar roads would possibly cost billions in labor productivity.
Nonetheless, we believe that small areas such as parking lots and walking pavements will use solar panels.
Additionally, don’t forget that scientists and researchers are actively working on developing new solar transportation systems and other transportation technologies.
The possibilities of a solar panel are only some of the options to focus on for the future.
You see that with the development of transportation technologies we are moving towards renewable energy sources to power eco-friendly and reliable electric vehicles.
How do you see the future of solar transportation technologies?
Do you think solar systems can overtake the current transportation technologies?
We see solar transportation as the dominant type of transportation in the future.
Share your opinion in the comment section below.
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