In the quest to find the most reliable sustainable source, many have turned to solar power. Many people already power their houses entirely on the sun – but what about our cars?
Below are some of the way in which solar power is already making an impact on our roads.
Street lighting uses up a lot of valuable energy. Already many companies around the world have started investing in solar roads to combat this issue. The Netherlands was the first to build a solar road in 2014 (technically a bike path but it runs on the same principle) and has since paved the way for other countries to follow suit. France has since opened a solar powered motor road in Normandy and other countries are making plans. Given that roads are constantly exposed to the sun and take up great chunks of our landscape, it seems only sensible to exploit these areas.
Solar powered car batteries
Regular car batteries slowly drain. If you don’t use your vehicle for a couple weeks (particularly in winter) the battery can become discharged. Solar power has helped to combat this. You can now buy solar powered car batteries that not only keep your car powered up but naturally discharge when not in use to avoid ‘overcharging’. They’re surprisingly cheap and easy to fit. Contrary to popular belief, they even charge up when it is cloudy (although if you live in Northern Scandinavia where sunlight hours are short in supply it may not be so practical).
Solar powered batteries are seeing increased usage in vehicles such as motor homes, where there are more electrical appliances and batteries are more likely to wear. Solar panels can be easily fitted to the flat roof of a camper van without being noticeable, allowing you to watch TV in the evenings, charge up your equipment and listen to the radio without worrying about burning through the battery’s charge.
Solar powered cars
What about dispelling the need for petrol entirely and running cars purely on the sun? It turns out solar powered cars are already a thing. In fact, there’s a motorsport dedicated to them with official teams such as DUEM.
Tests have already seen solar cars capable of travelling up to 115 miles on a single charge. Once thought only to be a solution to short trips, solar powered cars may in fact one day be capable of long haul journeys. Perhaps the biggest obstacle at the moment is speed – the world record currently standing at 56.75 mph. Whilst this may qualify as roadworthy, taking away the aerodynamics and sports features to turn this car into a road vehicle would drastically lower the speed.
With time perhaps solar cars will catch up with the speed of other road vehicles. However, with other sustainable cars already yielding much higher performance, it seems unlikely we’ll be driving solar cars to work for a while.