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As the amount of available fossil fuels on our planet reduces daily, and the fact that humanity has woken up to the toxicity of fossil fuels, clean energy (of which solar energy is the most abundant) is the future. Eventually, solar vehicles and other green vehicles will completely replace fossil fuel-powered vehicles. Solar vehicles involve solar powered cars, solar buses, solar aircraft, solar spacecraft, solar boats, and so on.
Solar vehicles run by using photovoltaic (PV) cells that convert solar energy to electrical energy. PV cells directly convert sunlight into electric current. PV cells are created using semiconductor materials. The most popular element used to make PV cells is crystalline silicon.
Solar cars are not commercially available as yet, at least not at a scale at which they can be widely adopted by the general public. Models of solar cars have been developed by various researchers and a large majority of solar cars have been created for solar car races. There are very few road-legal solar cars present in the world today, and the worldwide adoption of solar powered cars is a long way away as of now.
Solar cars and other eco-friendly cars have a very low carbon footprint when compared to traditional gasoline models. Theoretically, the worldwide adoption of solar cars will help in arresting climate change as the combustion of gasoline is one of the major factors contributing to the rising greenhouse effect.
Solar arrays containing hundreds of PV cells are essential building blocks of solar cars. Solar arrays are mounted on the cars to capture the sun’s energy and the arrays can be mounted in numerous different ways. The choice of solar array placement is typically dependent on how much energy a car would require to function. It is based on the required power output, the mass of the car, aerodynamic features, and a car’s practical requirements. Racing cars and commercial solar cars would have vastly different array designs.
Solar cars, much like electric cars, will need to be charged. The electricity will fuel the battery that run’s a car’s motor. Solar-powered cars could also directly transmit power to an electric motor. Replacing gas stations would be charging stations where people will be able to charge their solar cars. Solar charging stations would theoretically feature extremely large arrays to capture the energy and transfer it to cars.
In today’s world, the solar panels required to power a normal-sized passenger car would be far too large in size to be practically feasible. Solar arrays would technically be required to cover the entire surface area of a car’s roof to capture sufficient energy. This is how most solar race cars are designed, but it is unclear if our future solar cars will look like this.
Car companies like Toyota and Ford have spent years developing solar technology to put into their economy passenger cars. Their goal is to develop a way to mass manufacture these cars in a price range their current customers will go for. Take a look at the video below to see just how solar panels can power a car.
Maybe future cars will feature no solar arrays at all and will be charged through charging stations in order to make them run. The potential of solar cars as a source of green transportation is incredibly exciting. Watch this space closely! For no we will have to focus on reducing our carbon footprint through the use of all electric vehicles.
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