Solar Powered Cars
A solar powered car is an electric car with solar panels on it which capture the solar energy which is used for moving the car. The solar energy is converted into electrical energy by the photovoltaic cells. Solar powered cars are mainly used for demonstration, engineering exercises and solar car races. The use of solar energy as a fuel for automobiles is gaining high importance as the fossil fuels are getting depleted at fast rates. Unlike the normal internal combustion engine powered vehicles, solar powered cars do not pollute the atmosphere.
Type of fuels used
The solar energy is converted into electrical energy by the photovoltaic cells and is used to fuel the solar car. The solar energy particles or photons captured by the solar panels are stored in a photovoltaic cell which converts it into electricity. This electricity is stored in batteries for efficiency. The most widely used batteries in solar cars are lead acid-acid car batteries and a normal solar powered car will be equipped with minimum of ten such batteries for efficient energy storage.
The performance of Solar Powered Cars
The solar cars are designed with regenerative braking systems where the energy absorbed while braking is absorbed and stored thereby increasing the efficiency. The overall performance of a solar powered car depends mainly on its design. Aerodynamics and weight of the car are some of the major factors that regulate the fuel efficiency of a solar car. As larger solar panels result in better storage of energy, the size of the solar panels mounted on the car also decides the performance. Large batteries capable of storing the electricity generated add to the weight of the car. One major factor affecting the performance of the solar powered cars is the imbalance in the size of the battery to its energy storing capacity. The best in class solar fuel cars available in the market is capable of working with very little energy. The performance is seen almost close to a gasoline powered engine. A top speed of 130 km/hr and a minimum range of 100 km are the performance statistics of the best solar powered car in the market. As these cars are mostly used for races, they are equipped with wireless links to enable electrical performance monitoring during the race. The mechanical systems in a solar powered car are designed to maintain required strength keeping the weight to a minimum. A better aerodynamics and array space for a solar car is achieved through the composite outer shell. The performance of a solar car also depends on the material selection to build the car. Better strength-to-weight ratio, ease of manufacturing and cost are considered while selecting the material for building a solar car.
Pros and cons of the Solar Fuel
The advantages of solar fuel are that they are environmental friendly, low maintenance, and offer longer life. The solar energy can be converted to electrical energy with zero noise generation. Solar energy can be harnessed even in remote areas. Solar energy is available at free of cost and the supply is a never ending one. As no moving parts are required to generate electricity in a solar panel, the maintenance cost is too low. The initial cost for harnessing the solar energy is one difficulty while going for solar energy. The problem with solar cars is that they are dependant on the weather and climate and so they cannot be used if the stored energy in the battery is zero. The solar panels take up lots of space.
There is only limited power to play with in a solar fuel car and so luxuries like air conditioners, music systems etc are not entertained at all. The efficiency of the photovoltaic cells is very low. The energy stored in a solar powered car is very less compared to the amount of solar energy absorbed.
Solar Power Cars in different countries
The market for solar cars is still in its infancy. New innovations and developments are happening in the solar car design. These are aimed at developing commercial solar cars which are highly energy efficient. Many countries are involved in campaigning and building up awareness for replacement of fossil fuel vehicles with new energy efficient vehicles like solar cars. Many countries are supporting and backing up research and development in solar car technologies due to their high concern to get freed from oil dependencies. The increase in oil and gas price has also resulted in growing interest among private and government sectors in developing solar powered cars. Many big players are into the development of energy efficient solar powered cars as the demand for solar power is increasing due to the lack of availability of other sources of fuel, especially fossil fuels.
Environmental benefits of Solar Powered Cars
The solar fuel powered cars are environment friendly and have zero emissions. Solar energy is a gift from the sun. The solar panel replaces the need for more coal and natural gas to generate electricity. Replacing gasoline fuel cars with solar powered cars reduces the amount of carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere. This in turn reduces the threat of global warming. The solar car reduces the green house gas emissions by a considerable amount. The reduced pollution by the replacement of fossil fuel cars with solar cars reduces the chances of the environmental threat of acid rain. As solar powered cars result in reduced CO2 emission, using them can be equated to planting trees. The initial cost for setting up the solar panels in the car is costly.
Cost of the fuel
As the solar energy is available free of cost, the cost of solar car fuelling is dependant on the solar panel which generates the electrical energy. Once the initial cost in setting up is covered the running of a solar car is free of cost as the maintenance cost is very less.
Solar Power Tax benefits in the UK
Many countries including the UK have passed new energy laws, providing tax relief to solar energy consumers. The solar cars are exempted from road tax in many countries. The financial support given by the government helps the solar car market to get matured very quickly.
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