There has been a big boost in the number of hybrid and electric vehicles produced and sold across the UK in recent years. More electric charging stations have appeared and many models have become affordable for the everyday driver. The next step for eco driving looks to be the implementation of solar technology, but when will that be?
Solar power is already in use within the manufacturing side of new cars, as Volkswagen’s SEAT factory in Spain demonstrates with a 53,000 solar panel rooftop array, generating 15,000,000 kWh per year. This is just one step towards solar technology impacting upon the auto industry.
There are already various solar powered cars in existence, but the majority are used for racing and not practical everyday driving. They are highly efficient vehicles which run on solar power, with a team from The Netherlands’ Delft University winning 2015’s World Solar Challenge as their vehicle travelled 1,900 miles the fastest in last year’s race.
Plans are underway for a more traditionally styled solar sports car as the technology is evidently available and works. The current barrier to making such vehicles readily available are the common issues of production costs and the vehicle being powerful enough for long journeys.
The challenge of creating a car that can carry more than one passenger and be used for commuting and everyday eco driving while relying on solar technology is close to being met. Ford are working with SunPower Corp. and Georgia Institute of Technology to develop the Ford C-Max Solar Energi Concept which, while just a prototype, will use solar energy to charge its battery.
Stella is another vehicle that can seat four people and apparently travel up to 500 miles on a single charge thanks to the solar panel on its roof. It was designed by another Dutch team though it features a less traditional shape than Ford’s concept which may put some drivers off.
The future certainly looks bright for solar technology being used with new eco cars when one of the world’s major car manufacturers are testing out vehicles. However, electric and hybrid vehicles have taken many years to enter the mainstream so it could be a decade or so before solar powered cars are commonplace on our streets. Plus there’s the issue of eco cars relying on solar technology getting enough sunlight during the UK’s gloomy winters and cloudy summers.