The first full-size solar car hit the market a few years later in 1960. The American company International Rectifier converted a 1912 Baker Electric into a solar-powered car that reached 20 km/h (12 mph) in just three hours.
The 1980s also marked the beginning of the main application of solar-powered vehicles today: racing. The first official solar vehicle race took place in Switzerland in 1985: the Tour de Sol. Today’s most famous race is the World Solar Challenge, first held in 1987. Today it takes place every two years and is mostly attended by university and company teams. Participating cars are light vehicles covered with solar panels, usually a square, and run on three wheels the size of a bicycle tire. Therefore, they are far from the useful prototypes for today’s commercial vehicles.
solar car today
Outside of racing, photovoltaic cell technology is not currently dominant in the automotive market. The main constraints are the prohibitive cost of using the technology, the lack of space that can be reached, the number of signs that can be placed on the car, the range of the car and the speed it can reach.
There are several solar powered vehicle initiatives that have sought to open the door for the consumer. One of the most talked about is Lightyear One. With a range of 700 kilometers, it uses photovoltaic cells which, according to their developers, can store 20% more energy than conventional cells and operate autonomously, even if some are covered by electricity . At $150,000, it’s not a viable option for most people, but the idea that its technology could be used by other manufacturers holds up an interesting promise.
Do solar cars have a future?
While the reality of an accessible conventional solar-powered car is still a long way off, solar power can contribute to more sustainable transportation in other ways. Solar powered vehicles are not equipped with solar panels, they are powered by electricity that is generated externally by solar panels which can be located on the roof of the house or garage etc.
There is also the option of placing solar panels on the roofs of electric or hybrid cars as an additional source of energy, which has already been proven in several commercial models, which are not actually intended to move the car but to other Can provide energy needed for uses.