Did you know that solar cars currently exist? Although it is still a sector that is growing, it is a technological innovation that will allow us, in the future, to be able to move around with vehicles that harness and store solar energy to convert it into electricity. Just as solar panels are capable of heating our water or our home, renewable energies have also been introduced in the motor field with such force that they will be capable of completely changing the automotive sector in the coming years.
How solar cars work
The basic principle on which solar car technology hovers is to harness the energy of sunlight by transforming it into electricity. To make this modification, photovoltaic cells (solar panels) are usually used, which are responsible for transforming photons (light) into electrons (electricity).
Since 1987, the World Solar Challenger race has been held annually in Darwin Australia. This car race only accepts vehicles powered by solar energy and, every year, more companies participate with new projects and proposals from the automotive sector. It is here where we can see the future of solar cars and witness the enormous evolution that the sector has had in recent years.
But how do solar cars work? The key that the vehicle can move is that the solar panels are arranged against each other, in the form of a sandwich. In this way, the excess of electrons of one and the deficit of the other are allowed to intersperse and move through the voids of the other; With this combination, the electrons flow and, therefore, an electrical voltage is created. In the case of cars, solar panels feed a battery that is responsible for moving the car’s engine.
The first problems
As we have mentioned, since 1987 innovation has been taking place in the field of solar cars and along the way scientists have come across a series of inconveniences and problems that made them believe that the future of these vehicles was more science fiction than reality. One of the main problems found is that the sun did not emit enough energy in the form of radiation to be able to move an entire vehicle at the usual speed of 100 or 120 km/h.
Later they found that the photovoltaic cells that we had until then were not very technologically advanced and only a small part of the sun’s energy could be used to convert it into electricity. At that time, an innovation was needed in solar panels that were more efficient and that could make the most of photons.
All this meant that the solar cars that existed at that time were only tricycles that only allowed one seat and were equipped with bicycle wheels. On top of this there was a kind of awning of photovoltaic panels that were responsible for transforming the energy and, therefore, moving the vehicle.
Current status of solar cars
However, in 2014 a group of Dutch engineering students surprised the World Solar Challenger by presenting a car capable of transporting 4 people for 600 kilometers in a row. Until then, the cars that were presented in Australia were prototypes since they barely had autonomy and were only capable of transporting one person, as we have previously pointed out. For this reason, the Stella (which is the name given to the car) has become the first family solar car in the world.
In addition to this, the Stella is one of the lightest cars since it only reaches 380 kg because the chassis is made of light materials such as aluminum or carbon fiber, something that favors the progress, speed and autonomy of the car. vehicle. Solar panels are installed on the roof and hood of the car to make the most of the energy from the sun.
The Stella can travel autonomously 600 km on a single charge but, in addition, during this journey it consumes less energy than the panel itself has generated, so the surplus can be stored in a battery that is used to use it. when there is no sunlight.