Is it possible to power a car just from sunlight? That’s one of the next steps for innovative electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers. Charging a car from the power grid can be much more sustainable than fossil fuels–but getting energy from the sun is renewable and free. With so much exposed area, it seems there should be a way to capture solar energy while driving and reduce or eliminate the need for electrical charging. Several car manufacturers, particularly in Europe, are experimenting to see if it’s possible to power a car with solar energy.
In 2021, Road and Track published an article purporting the impossibility of powering cars with solar energy. According to them, the visible area of a vehicle is only large enough to capture enough solar energy to power a car to run at 12 miles per hour. Their studies also showed that a vehicle would have to sit for 200 hours in cloudless skies to charge a Tesla Model 3’s 75-kWh battery fully.
Yet, innovative car manufacturers are pushing these boundaries and exploring just how far a solar-powered vehicle can drive.
Take, for example, Lightyear–a Dutch-based tech startup. Since 2016, this company has been developing a solar-powered vehicle called the o. This vehicle, ready to hit the open roads with consumers, has a teardrop-shaped body and rear wheel spats with smooth body lines. The interior is roomy enough to transport five adults comfortably and features sustainable materials such as plant-based leathers, wood, and fabric made from recycled plastic. But can it operate on solar energy?
The o’s powertrain includes a four-motor setup with a 60-kWh battery pack capable of producing a combined 174 hp and 1,269 ft pounds of torque. It will go from zero to 62 miles per hour in 10 seconds and achieves a top speed near 100 miles per hour. The exterior of the car is covered with 16.4 square feet of panels that add up to 44 miles of range per day produced from solar energy. So while the vehicle still requires electrical charging to drive all 388 miles its battery can handle, for daily driving and commuters, it can be a long time before the car needs to be plugged in. Of course, for vehicle owners in sunny regions, the amount of solar power generated will be greater than those of other areas.
If you’re interested in leaping into this innovation, it comes with a hefty price tag. Since manufacturing isn’t efficient yet, one of these o cars will cost you about $266,000. Don’t let that number depress you, though. The goal is to drive costs down enough to make solar-powered vehicles affordable and accessible to average consumers within ten years.
Another option clean energy consumers have is to use solar panels on their homes to produce electricity to recharge their EVs. You can learn more about this in our article, “Can I Power an Electric Car with Solar Panels.”
Do you find the future of clean energy exciting?
So do we! The Rogue Valley Clean Cities Coalition’s mission is to enhance the livability of the Rogue Valley. We promote and educate on alternate fuels, seek to decrease dependency on petroleum, and promote clean air and water in the Rogue Valley via alternate fuels. Contact us today for more information!