Every year the biggest automobile brands develop new prototypes of cars powered by solar energy. The need for cars like these comes from the fact that more car manufacturers are changing to more eco-friendly vehicles, at least gradually.
There are many variants of solar cars; some solar-powered cars run only on solar energy. Cars like these are purely powered using solar energy without a combination of another or alternative energy source.
Some models come with supplementary power in the form of a battery. This gives them another alternative means of energy, making them a sort of hybrid model. Other solar-powered cars come with solar panels that are then used for recharging the batteries.
As of now, there is no commercial solar powered in the world; the use of solar cars is limited to solar car races; although some prototypes exist for public use. The first solar powered car was designed in the year 2013, and 2021 will see the release of the first limited release of solar powered cars, the Lightyear One and Sion from Sono Motors.
Top Solar Powered Cars
The increased and growing interest in sustainable and eco-friendly energy has ensured that talks about solar cars keep growing. The automotive industry has embraced the manufacture and production of electric cars, and solar powered cars seem to be the next stage of evolution.
Basically, a solar car is an electric car that makes use of solar energy. They make use of cells called photovoltaic cells, which convert solar energy to electric energy; energy that is then used for powering the car.
The design of solar cars makes them a perfect answer to the menace of environmental pollution; no gas means no exhaust. This helps to lower the amount of carbon in the air, making the earth more sustainable. Also, solar powered cars are perfect answers to the question of noise pollution. They are designed to run almost silently, ensuring that you move seamlessly without having to be a disturbance to the rest of road users.
However, questions still remain if these cars are truly worth all the fuss. The fact that solar energy means solar panels raises a question about aesthetics; questions like “will these cars look attractive” are asked on the daily. In fact, the concern about the aesthetics of solar cars, among others, is why they are still limited to use in solar car races.
These concerns are fair; no one wants to spend over a hundred thousand dollars on a car that would see them become a laughing stock. No matter how environmentally conscious a person is, it is still important to get your money’s worth – and nothing says luxury car more than a truly beautiful car.
This is why we have compiled a well-detailed review of some of the top prototypes released by automotive giants, as well as cars with solar kits that serve as an auxiliary energy source.
Here are the top solar powered cars heading into the New Year, 2020.
1. Sunswift IV (IVy)
If we are going to have a review of the top solar powered cars, we might as well start from the fastest one at the moment. The car even got the official Guinness Book of World Record for this achievement; it recorded an incredible speed of 88km/hour that leaves it some 10km/hour faster than the previous record-holder, GM Sunraycer.
It has held the record for the better part of this decade, eight years now, and looks like it is going to hold it for more. The team behind this solar powered car is the Solar Racing Team of the University of New South Wales, Sydney in Australia.
The biggest downside to the Sunswift IV comes with its look; this is not a car that you would love to have on the road. However, the solar car was designed to compete at the World Solar Challenge, meaning it wasn’t designed for then road in the first place.
2. Sonata Hybrid model by Hyundai
Hyundai has joined the solar automobile sub-industry by incorporating a solar top or roof charging system to its Sonata model. The hybrid car is powered by both gas and electricity, but solar panels would be the source of the electric.
In the structure of the new model, it would have solar panels built and placed on top of the car. The panels would capture ultraviolet rays, which are then converted and used for charging the car battery.
The charging of the new Sonata model can take place while the car is in motion or while the car is parked – this means you can charge the car while your cruise down the road. This particular feature of the solar powered increases the user experience.
According to the Korean automotive giant, solar energy from the solar panels placed on top of the car can account for about 30 to 60 percent of battery. This is an incredible amount of power coming from clean energy sources.
Up to six hours of charge could translate to another 1300km a year for the driver of the Sonata Hybrid car. More energy means more distance can be traveled, and you can contribute your quota to keeping the earth safe.
The model has been released for sale in Korea, and future release in the North America region has been planned to. Expect to see silent Hyundai Sonata on American roads soon enough.
3. Lightyear One
Dutch automotive company Lightyear has announced the release of the Lightyear One, and the first all-electric car powered by solar energy is expected to hit the market by 2021.
The first prototype of the car has just been released, and if things going according to plan, Lightyear might just win the solar car industry race ahead of giants like Hyundai and Toyota. The plan is to have a car this covered with solar panels, delivering a hundred percent clean energy to consumers. This would represent a giant leap from the solar powered cars that only see use in solar car races.
According to claims from the team behind the solar powered car, the car will deliver 725km in distance. If this is true, this would represent a great amount of distance traveled using solar energy.
The solar panels will be present on the roof of the car, of course, as well as other parts such as the hood. This will be able to charge the car to cover up to 12km per hour. This might not be a lot of distance but the 725km range still represents a very impressive range.
In other to ensure the safety of the solar cells, they will be enclosed in safety glass. This would ensure that they are free from damage. No one wants solar cells that would see the damage after a few months of use or one that would need replacement as soon as possible.
However, the car’s energy is not limited to just solar cells; there is an electric plug-in that will allow up to 60kW of fast charging, as well as a range of 507km.
One thing you may have to consider, and probably a downside is the incredible price of the car. Although the preorders are going at a lesser price, you would still have to cough up an incredible amount of money to get one of these babies.
4. Sion from Sono Motors GmbH
Another exciting development in the world of solar powered cars is Sion, an all-electric hybrid car from the German startup company, Sono Motors GmbH. The car would have the traditional electric plug-in, coupled with solar energy from the solar cells on top of the car roof. The panels would be introduced into the chassis of the roof.
The Sion car would be able to offer car users juice that last up to 250km, at a range of 140km/h. The manufacture of the Sion cars will begin in 2020, and it is expected to hit the market by 2021.
What is even more interesting about the Sono car is that it is being developed by a startup that is usually crowdfunded – however, it has a manufacturing deal with Swedish car makers, NEVS.
The word is out already and reactions to the Sion model have been nothing short of great. A reported 10,000 preorders have been made, and it is showing no sign of stopping.
It would be interesting to see which model users will go for between the previously mentioned Lightyear One and this. At the end of the day, it is a great development for the solar car industry.
Cars, for consumers, that are going to be powered solely by solar energy is looking more and more realistic by the day. Many industry giants are carrying out tests every year to make this possible and new prototypes emerge every day.
The concern of aesthetics will always remain; it would be pretty hard to have a car covered in solar panels look extremely attractive but it is not impossible. The real concern comes in what happens during winter, and in cloudy regions. What is the solution to this? Many are of the opinion that why have a car that cannot move a rainy day.
Manufacturers and designers of solar powered cars will take all of these concerns into consideration and hope to make a truly sustainable, effective pure solar powered car.
For now, we have to make do with hybrid cars and solar race cars.