Dave Elliott: Can cars be run on solar energy alone? Vehicle-mounted photovoltaic (PV) cells have been able to provide sufficient day-time power for very light-weight experimental “solar cars” as demonstrated in the cross-Australia World Solar Challenge. However, even with lighter, more efficient cells, it is a big step from that to conventional cars for general use. Solar PV battery chargers are widely used on yachts and other vessels for ancillary power. They are also used to power the units of some refrigerated transport containers to reduce fossil-fuel use by delivery trucks. Yet PV-powered cars might seem a step too far and not everyone is convinced that enthusiasm for this idea is entirely justified. Cars do, however, spend of lot of time parked or driving in the open air, so roof-top PV cells could be used to charge electric vehicle batteries. And several solar cars have now been developed, although in most cases the solar input is a “top up” to standard grid charging, adding a few miles extra to their daily range on sunny days. For example, Toyota claims that its solar car can manage up to 55 extra kilometres with a full days solar charge. Going one better, Lightyear’s new solar car claims to be able to add almost 20 km extra range for each hour of solar charging, possibly taking the total range up to 1250 km.
Physics World 27th Nov 2019 read more »