The Reason We Don’t Have Solar
The solar energy and EV markets are both growing rapidly, and so it seems logical on the surface, at least to merge the two technologies by building solar-powered cars. That idea isn’t new and we’ve seen some concepts based on it over the years, yet such vehicles still aren’t found on the market. Why? The science and numbers just don’t add up, sadly. Many solar-powered car concepts feature very impractical designs and, in order to maximize power generation, they’re basically large solar panels on wheels.
In the years following the earliest concepts, automakers have made some progress in adding solar panels to cars without compromising design. Companies like Mercedes-Benz with its concept Vision EQXX and Hyundai with its hybrid Sonata are leveraging solar cells embedded in the roofs of cars, for example and, of course, they’re not the only ones with such innovations related to EVs. With that said, the solar roofs on these modern all-electric vehicles are not powering the full ride they are only there to give the battery an extra boost and they may remain nothing more than a novelty for years to come.
Innovative Solar Roof Adds Over 700 Miles Of Range A Year To Electrified Genesis G80
- Innovative solar roof panel can add more than 1,000 km of range over a year
- Advanced set-up adds energy to the high voltage 87.2kWh battery, both when driving and while the car is parked
- Electrified G80s solar roof can also charge the vehicles low-voltage battery when parked for long periods
- Contributes over 266 kWh of electric energy a year, roughly the same that an average UK household uses per month
FRANKFURT, Germany, November 17, 2022: Research from Genesis has shown that by harnessing the power of the sun, the Electrified G80s state-of-the-art solar roof can add up to an additional 1,150 km / 715 miles of range a year.
Available as an option, the solar roof panel uses an advanced photovoltaic material made from silicon, which is used as a conductor to absorb sunlight to produce electricity. The innovative use of solar technology allows the Electrified G80s already impressive WLTP 323 mile range to be extended even further. Based on an average of just under six hours of daylight, this sophisticated addition can add around 0.7 kWh of energy which translates to an extra 3 km / 1.8 miles of range a day, or 1,150 km / 715 miles over the course of a year saving customers both money and time. Due to the efficiency of the solar roof being subject to external conditions, range will be lower in countries with fewer hours of sunlight and similarly range will be higher for those who park their cars outside and/or drive more during the day.
Will Rooftop Solar Kits Make Your Car Lose Value
Generally, any modification to your vehicle such as a rooftop solar panel can reduce the value of your car. While there is no set reduction rate, things such as roof carriers and bike racks bring a cars value down, and something as niche as a rooftop solar panel will bring it down even further.
Vehicles already depreciate greatly once you drive them off the lotsome averages are as high as 30%and adding any non-factory elements will likely reduce the value even further, especially if those added elements dont match the color and shape of the vehicle.
When you mounted the panel to your roof you had to use some sort of adhesive bonding. This is almost guaranteed to peel the paint of the car if you try to remove it. Solvents might do a better job at removing the adhesive, but will still most likely chip or bubble the paint.
Most people will have glued the panel down, but some people do mount them on boards so they can be tilted to better match the suns angle. This means they had to drill holes in the roof of their car and then seal around the bolts to prevent leaks. This will all but destroy the value of a car, especially if you have to remove the panel.
If you also plan to put a roof rack system on the roof of your car, it might be a good idea to do both at the same time. This will allow you to size the panels to fit within the confines of the racking system and may allow you to use the roof racks bolts to also hold your panels in place.
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Change In Vehicles Aerodynamics
Installing a solar panel system on your car roof will change the aerodynamics of your vehicle.
Even the panels are installed parallel to the roof, your car will have more wind resistance than it did before. This will inevitably affect handling and fuel consumption, albeit to a small extent.
The faster you go, the greater will be the change in your vehicles aerodynamics, which can mean that you may have to drive a little slower.
Therefore, if the performance of your car is critical to you, you should install a thin-film solar panel system that will stick to the roof. In this way, you can get lower wind resistance and maintain the aerodynamics of your vehicle.
What Changed Since Evs Were New
While improved NiMH %20battery%20technology.” rel=”nofollow”> blocked by the oil companies) and then lithium-ion batteries made a big difference in the viability of electric vehicles, solar-powered vehicles havent had a similar moment where big change happened overnight. Instead, incremental changes have been stacking up under peoples noses over the last decade and leading toward viability too slowly to catch everyones attention.
I noticed this happening in 2019. The solar cells you can buy on the commercial market only tend to produce electricity with 20-25% efficiency, and this had risen a little in the decade leading up to that article . A 5-10% increase in solar efficiency isnt a huge deal on its own, but Toyotas test vehicle was fitted with experimental solar cells with 34% efficiency. With that much power , Toyotas test vehicle was able to get 27 miles of range per day of charging, which is pretty close to the average distance an American driver goes in a typical day.
That got my attention. Sure, youd still have to plug that vehicle in when theres a cloudy day, or let the vehicles gas engine run in the case of Toyotas test vehicle. Thats not ideal, but for someone living where you cant plug a vehicle in , getting most of your vehicles miles to run on the sun and only using a gas engine when conditions are bad is head and shoulders above just burning gas full-time. 34% solar cells arent commercially available yet, but it wont be long until they are.
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Why People Keep Getting This Wrong
Honestly, though, we do have to be fair. Solar-powered cars is an easy thing to get wrong. Its a slow-changing topic that most cleantech fans arent on top of. Want some proof? Look at any of the comment sections on our articles about solar vehicles.
The fundamentals of electric cars havent changed since the Tesla Model S came out. High-density batteries , slung low in a skateboard configuration, power at least one AC electric motor which makes the car move. Sure, battery density has improved. Tesla has exciting plans for the 4680 tabless battery cell that get a lot of attention, too. But nobody has really been able to question whether electric cars are fundamentally viable since 2012, and spurious arguments against them are dying out as prices fall, infrastructure gets built out, and EVs prove themselves.
Solar technology hasnt changed much in that time, either. Like battery storage, minor improvements have been made since EVs started proving that they could serve as a normal automobile and not as a short-range commuter or impractical weirdbox. So the amount of solar energy you could get from a vehicles surface area hasnt improved by a whole lot. The numbers in the Engineering Explained video that the article linked to are correct.
Smart Charging Is A Must
The UniSA team is not the only group to advocate for midday charging.
A Stanford University team found demand for energy from the grid in Western US states will actually increase by 25 per cent if charging takes place at night. Moving charging to daytime hours makes use of the regions huge capacity for solar and wind generation and will require fewer batteries.
The potential strain on electricity grids of a significant new source of power demand is a worry for regulators and infrastructure owners alike, as Australian EV drivers look to charge their vehicles at home.
But many drivers are already picking the times when a charge is cheapest. The Electric Vehicle Council and Tesla Owners Club of Australia ran a survey in 2022 that showed a majority of Tesla owners charged during the nightly off-peak of 12am-2am, and the middle of the day .
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Exactly How Can We Know Whether The Solar Panel Is Charging
A solar voltage regulator, also known as a solar charge controller, is the most effective and efficient technique to determine the condition of the battery and the charger. However, if the equipment is not accessible, a multimeter might be used in its place as a temporary measure of compliance.
In addition to using a hydrometer, it is possible to ascertain the current status of the charge, which is still another dependable method. Lead-acid batteries are often composed of a battery that has been installed in it and a detachable cap that they may use to test the specific gravity of the battery using a hydrometer that is capable of accurately determining the solar voltage of each cell.
Reading the batterys charge level is essential when the Solar charger is not charging. Otherwise, it would result in various errors unrelated to the actual amount.
Instructions on how to get the most efficiency out of your solar charger
The following are some of the rules that they should follow to get the most out of a battery charger:
Is There Anything Other Than Solar Panels That Can Provide Energy For Electric Vehicles
Many individuals have theorized on the many types of charges capable of powering automobiles. Weve previously discussed solar panels, but alternative charges that others have considered include generators, wind turbines, and the standard charger.
The regular charger is still the best option for charging your electric automobile. There is currently insufficient technology to make solar or wind energy efficient enough to power an automobile on its own. Although research is being conducted to enhance this technology, it may be some years before major automobile manufacturers begin to include various energy alternatives into their vehicles.
Many charging stations rely on solar electricity to give customers extra charging power. Because there is more surface area to catch the sunshine, it is simpler for the solar panels at the stations to collect enough electricity to charge the automobiles. Wind turbine-powered charging stations are being developed at the moment.
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People Will Always Say Its A Gimmick But Its Not Said Sono Motors Ceo Laurin Hahn
As electric vehicles go mainstream, the auto industry has largely reached the consensus that the next big thing is no longer about eliminating gas engines, but finding the most efficient method to generate electricity to power cars. Some companies, including Tesla, focus on perfecting the already popular lithium-ion batteries others take the risk to explore new battery tech such as hydrogen fuel cells and solid-state batteries.
But few have pursued an alternative energy source that dominates elsewhere: solar power.
Whats stopping EV companies from making a car wrapped in solar panels that can automatically charge itself up when its sunny outside and then have enough juice to hit the road the next morning? The concept sounds simple enough and perfectly environmentally friendly.
In fact, there were some early attempts at harnessing the suns energy for automobiles. In 1955, a General Motors engineer built a tiny, 15-inch-long solar car, dubbed the Sunmobile, to show the possibilities of solar energy. Unfortunately, they were unable to build out the prototype into a fully solar-powered car due to limitations in energy efficiency, storage and weather. And since, engineers have come to the conclusion that no solar panel can generate enough power to support a cars regular use while being small enough to be carried around by a car.
Lithium Ion Isn’t One Thing
“Lithium ion” is a catch-all name that includes combinations using nickel, manganese, cobalt, aluminum, iron and other minerals and metals. One of the more interesting is a lithium ion variant called lithium iron phosphate . A recent FAA test found that this formulation produces the lowest temperature rise of lithium ion types during thermal runaway as well as having less propensity to ignite adjacent cells when one catches.
Conveniently, lithium iron phosphate batteries are having something of a moment right now, with Ford among automakers that are embracing the formulation because it happens to also be good at handling many charge cycles with little capacity loss and uses a core material that is cheaper, plentiful and less toxic, both chemically and politically. The downsides to lithium iron phosphate batteries is that they tend to be a bit heavier and have lower energy density than some other formulations, requiring more battery to get the same range. But since most of us wildly overestimate the range we need in an electric car, that may be a moot point.
The other potential battery safety breakthrough might come from solid-state batteries, which do away with most or all of the flammable slurry inside today’s lithium ion batteries. According to a recent study by the Sandia National Labs, solid-state batteries do seem to be much safer, though they will combust when pushed beyond reasonable limits.
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The Energy Captured Is Insufficient
Only about 55 percent of the energy received by the earth from the sun actually makes it to the ground. And thats only on the clearest of days.
Peak energy typically happens at noon.
Even with the most efficient solar panel out there, only 33.7 percent of the solar energy captured can be turned into usable electricity.
Youd typically only get enough energy to run at around 12 mph. Thats fine if your EV is a golf cart but its not very efficient if you plan on going onto any highways.
Electric cars charge pretty slowly and this would slow the process down much more.
How Much Pv Can Fit On An Ev
Theres a limit to how many solar cells you can put on a car. The roof of a sedan or a medium to small hatchback fits around two square meters:
This solar roof is available as an option on the Hyundai Ioniq 5. But you cant get it in the US, so its unlikely to be available for the small number arriving in Australia this year. Based on what Hyundai has said, it will provide around 1 kilowatt-hour a day in sunny locations.
But you can fit a lot more than that. If you are willing to work at it as the Dutch have with their Lightyear One EV, which launches this year. Theyve been able to fit 5 square meters of PV using the roof and bonnet:
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The Necessary Battery Would Be Too Heavy
Solar panels only work if theres a way to store all of the energy that is captured. The size of the battery that you would need to capture enough energy from sunrise to sunset would be too heavy.
The heavier the battery, the more effort it takes to move the EV. It can lead to performance problems, and you wont get the speed and acceleration that you demand from a road-worthy EV.
Additionally, it starts to create a never-ending circle of problems. When you have a heavy car, you need a stronger battery. And if you have a stronger battery, it is going to add weight to the car.
Most manufacturers are trying to REDUCE the weight of an EV rather than adding to it.
Why Currently Solar Panels On Cars Are Impractical
On average, a 10 square foot solar panel can generate approximately 50 watts with direct sunlight, which is the equivalent of a single light bulb, and since most cars only have approximately 10 to 25 square feet of space on their roof, the maximum amount of power they can generate is 50 to 150 watts to 25 square feet of space on their roof.
In comparison, most electric vehicles use a 240-volt outlet when parked at home. On average, these 240-volt outlets can provide approximately 30 miles of range for each hour they are charged.
With solar power, a vehicle would only be able to attain approximately one to three miles of range for each hour charged.
So for an electric vehicle with a range of 300 miles, this means it would take approximately 90 hours of direct sunlight to fully charge the battery, which is impractical for many reasons.
However, while in their current guise the idea of using traditional solar panels to help power an electric vehicle may be considered impractical, thats not to say that variations of solar panels are not being used or that several manufacturers and engineers have not looked into using them as an alternative source of energy and power.
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