From the introduction of the idea nearly 70 years ago to the latest advancements in solar technology, solar-powered electric cars have come a long way. Despite the challenges faced by startups like Aptera Motors and Lightyear, the industry continues to push forward, aiming to bring scalable solar electric vehicles to production.
The Evolution of Solar-Powered Cars
The first solar-powered car, the Sunmobile, was introduced in 1955 and was only 15 inches in length. It introduced the world to photovoltaics, the core scientific process of converting the Sun’s rays into electricity. In 1958, the International Rectifier Company converted a vintage 1912 Baker electric car to run on photovoltaic energy. Since then, solar-powered cars have become more efficient thanks to advancements in photovoltaics and aerodynamics.
Solar Car Parks: A Step Towards Sustainable Mobility
Solar car parks, which have become a reality in the UK, feature sleek solar panels mounted on steel supports. They harness the sun’s energy while providing shade for parked vehicles, generating electricity, enhancing the visual appeal of parking facilities, and providing protection from the elements. The French Senate recently passed legislation mandating solar panel coverage for car parks with 80 spaces or more, and while the UK doesn’t have a similar requirement, businesses are adopting solar car parks to reduce long-term energy costs and increase reliance on renewable energy sources.
Solar Golf Carts: Eco-friendly and Efficient
Solar golf carts use solar panels to harness the sun’s energy, reducing carbon footprint and promoting renewable energy. They are eco-friendly, emitting fewer emissions than gas-powered carts, and produce minimal noise pollution with a minimal ecological impact. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the growth of solar energy, but key market players in the solar golf cart industry continue to innovate and push for a more sustainable future.
Lightyear One: A Promising Solar-Powered Electric Car
The Lightyear One, a solar-powered electric car from a Dutch startup, features a range of up to 450 miles on a single charge and can add an extra 7.5 miles of range per hour of sunlight. Its unique design integrates solar panels into the roof and hood of the car, and its lightweight design and advanced aerodynamics help to maximize efficiency. The Lightyear One is currently available for pre-order, with a price tag of around €149,000.