Solar Power Cars

If it’s good enough for my calculator, it’s good enough for a car.

Not true.  Yes, solar power cars exist, but they are a long way from being practical and affordable.  The power density of a photovoltaic solar panel, which has a direct correlation with electrical output, is limited by the size and weight of the car.  The more solar panels you add to the top of the car, the heavier the car becomes, which increases the need for more solar panels. A difficult situation.

Solar power car technology is presently beginning to see more efficiently produced solar panel electric grid systems that are used exclusively to power electric cars.  These solar grid powered electric cars may still carry their own solar panels, but they only provide a small portion of the power needed to run the car efficiently.  These electric cars can still technically be called solar powered cars, because they are fueled 100% by electricity that was converted from photovoltaic solar panels, but the difference is that they are not self-sufficient.

To increase the running time of self-sufficient power, solar powered vehicles can also carry batteries that store electricity for use during times of lower sunlight exposure.  But, again, a battery adds extra unwanted weight to the car which can only be sustained by adding more solar panels to the vehicle, making it heavier still and more expensive.

For us to see mass produced and less expensive solar powered cars in the future, we either need major improvements in the efficiency of the electrical output production from photovoltaic cells, which could reduce the power density required to power a car, or we need to see major advances in the strength and sustainability of the light weight materials that are used to build the frames and inner machinery of cars.  Yes, there are lightweight building materials that we see on many solar power car prototypes, but these lightweight materials greatly decrease the integrity of the safety features of a vehicle and usually can only carry the weight of one person.