With the increasing problem of Carbon Emissions, the need for alternative means of fuel has been one of the primary concerns for most researchers worldwide. Alternate Clean energy, notably one of the most important aspects of the upcoming future, is being tried and tested as one of the primary fuels for vehicles. Therefore, a solar car can be the next big creation of future technological advancement. After successfully harnessing the power of solar energy to generate electricity, experts worldwide have been trying to utilize it once again to power cars.
Introduction to Solar Cars
Definition: We refer to a vehicle running on electricity produced by conversion of solar power into usable energy is as a Solar car.
Solar cars are an ingenious combination of aerodynamics, clean converted energy, and laws of motion. The end product is a means of transportation that leaves a minimal footprint. Moreover, it saves the environment as well as the monetary expenses.
Solar panels with built-in Photovoltaic cells help in the conversion of solar power into usable electricity that can be stored in batteries. Hence, we can use these batteries as the fuel which we require to run the vehicles.
Key Distinction between a Solar car and a Standard Car
The standard cars come with an Internal Combustion Engine to operate the vehicle. The ICE uses fuel like Gasoline, Diesel, Petrol, etc to generate the energy needed for the movement of the vehicles. The heat generated by burning these fuels helps in the movement of the engine pistons thus resulting in the movement.
However, Petrol, diesel, etc are fossil fuel that generates a huge amount of additional carbon compound gases like Carbon Monoxide and Nitrogen Oxide among a few others too. These gas remnants along with the pollutants in the fossil fuels are the reason for the extensively growing air pollution seen worldwide.
A solar Vehicle solely depends on the photovoltaic cells to absorb the sunlight and convert it into usable energy to power the engine. Photovoltaic cells bypass the original principal of solar thermal energy by converting solar energy directly to usable electricity instead of thermal conversion. Therefore, we can easily store converted electricity in the batteries and use them to power the engine of a vehicle just like a normal Electric Car.
Working Principle of a Solar car
Solar cars have solar panels custom-designed to be mounted on the surfaces receiving maximum sun rays, which is generally the rooftop. The photovoltaic cells on the solar panels comprise of Silicon and a combination alloy of Galium and Indium and Nitrogen gas.
These elements have a natural retentive property that allows them to absorb the light energy from the solar rays. The retained energy then releases in form of free-moving electrons into specially designed storage sections.
In fact, we refer to this storage facility as batteries. They comprise of special elements like Lithium-ion, and Nickel – Cadmium, etc. These batteries have the ability to convert free electrons into usable energy to power the vehicle engine.
The speciality of these batteries is that we can use them repeatedly to power a vehicle. We can do it by recharging them using solar energy. With an ability to generate 80 to 150 volts of energy, solar-powered cars can cover 60 to 90 km on a single full charge.
The best aspect of these Solar Cars is their ability to constantly keep recharging their battery even when parked idle under sunlight. Therefore this reduces the cost of operation of a car to almost negligible.
Parts of a Solar car
- Solar Array – Also known as Solar Panel, they are lined with thousands of photovoltaic cells that convert the Solar Energy into usable electricity
- Power Trackers – Helps in channelizing the solar electricity generated toward the battery for storage. They also act as a stopper to prevent the batteries from overcharging.
- Electric Motor – Converts the electric energy to mechanical energy that helps in moving the wheels
- Navigational device – Steering or remote control helps in navigating the solar car in the desired direction.
- Speed Controller – Helps to monitor the speed of the vehicle and control the engine and wheels accordingly
- Chassis -The outer framework on which the entire structure of the car sets upon
- Wheel – Helps in manoeuvring the direction and speed of movement of the vehicle
- Battery – Stores the energy required to run the motor and controller.
Advantages of Using Solar car
- Eco friendly
- Ability to harness solar energy to its full potential
- Absence of carbon emission
- Fossil fuel-free vehicle
- Reduces noise pollution as Solar cars are noiseless
- Drastic reduction of air pollution due to the absence of residual pollutants like Carbon Monoxide, Nitrous dioxide, etc.
- Improved Ozone layer condition due to reduced greenhouse effect
- Abundance and infinite availability of the free resource.
- Preservation of the residual fossil fuel that is on verge of extinction
- Gasoline free vehicle
- Low maintenance with a longer life span value of the motor.
Use of Solar cars
Solar cars have a wide application range that includes:
- Commercialized four-wheel drives
- Lightweight vehicle
- Usable in areas where fuel-based vehicles are not permitted
- In space vehicles where fossil fuel consumes a vast majority of the expense.
Drawbacks of Solar cars
Solar Powered vehicles have the potential to change the future for the better. The concept of harnessing the immense power of sunlight into a constant source of energy can create a very big impact on the global scenario.
However, since this is still a theoretical concept mostly, it holds a lot of drawbacks like
- Decreased efficiency in absence or scarcity of sunlight
- The increased cost of initial investment
- Marked reduction in the vehicle speed
- Lack of sufficient infrastructure to assist in the maintenance of the vehicle.
FAQ on Solar Car
Question 1: Can we charge a solar car during heavy rain?
Answer 1: The presence of sunlight regardless of the rain or clouds is sufficient to generate converted electricity for the batteries of the solar-powered cars.
Question 2: What do we use solar cells?
Answer 2: Solar Cells have a wide range of applications like Calculators, Solar Panels, etc. they contain Photovoltaic cells that convert solar energy into usable electricity.
Question 3: Why are there no Solar Powered cars available?
Answer 3: Solar cars are still in their conceptual state. However, Lightyear One, one of the recent most Long-range solar-powered cars conceptualized by a Norweigian Automobile firm is the closest full-fledged family car to be designed as of yet.