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Solar-powered cars: the future or the present?

Solar-powered cars or 100% electric vehicles? Where will the future of the automotive market sit at? Which will be the most sustainable solution? This is what we tried to find out.

Nowadays, talking about hybrid, electric, or even hydrogen-powered cars is very common. These are, no doubt, already known and discussed topics by the fans of the automotive world.

So, where do solar-powered cars fit in? We dare to ask you: have you ever heard of these vehicles?

If you answered “no,” don’t worry, as you’re in the right place. Are solar cars the future, or will they very soon take over our present?

Electric car being charged at a charging station

Solar-powered cars: a sustainable decision

Solar cars, as they’re also known, are currently debated as another sustainable practice for car manufacturers to adopt. And the truth is that today there are already several (small and large) companies investing in developing this type of vehicle.

But how are car manufacturers studying this topic? And how can a fleet of solar-powered cars come to life in a few years?

We know it sounds like something from the future. It may look like something you can only see in the movies and are still years away from happening — but believe us, it isn’t.

Seeing solar-powered cars in the streets may be (much) closer than you think.

If electric vehicle sales increase year after year, car brands may introduce new solar-powered cars to their consumers — as another sustainable solution (in addition to electric and hybrid vehicles).

How do cars run on solar energy?

Solar cars are powered by the energy they receive from the sun. For this to happen, manufacturers must apply photovoltaic panels on the top of the vehicles — specifically, on the hood and the roof.

In turn, the photovoltaic cells (inserted in those panels) absorb the sunlight’s energy and create electrical potential. As a result, it generates a continuous electric current. Batteries, in turn, store this energy.

A genuine concern with the planet’s resources

The constant concern with the environment and with the waste of raw materials (used in the production of fossil fuel) leads to a continuous search for alternatives — in fact, Europe even wants to ban the sale of fossil-fuel cars as of 2035 on.

Therefore, manufacturers have been looking for and investing in more sustainable solutions to reduce the pollution they usually create. Electric cars are not only a reality in our country but also represent a fair share of the global market — which grows every year.

Even though hydrogen-powered cars mainly occupy a future position in the automotive business, some engineers in the area want to deliver other options with endless and free energy — such as solar.

People applying solar panels

Solar-powered cars: the perks and cons

Just as electric and hydrogen cars have their advantages and disadvantages, solar-powered cars are no exception. So it’s time to learn what they can bring to the table in the near future.

The perks of solar-powered cars

  • Unlimited, free energy: Electric cars need electricity to run. However cheap they get, solar-powered cars recharge at any time of the day — and they do it for free.
  • They charge at any time, anywhere: We’re speaking about the sun. Even if the sky’s cloudy, it’s possible to charge a vehicle with solar energy without staying in a designated area.
  • Environmentally friendly: Electric cars are already more sustainable — and help reduce the environmental footprint. But when it comes to solar cars, the level of sustainability goes through the roof (as the sun’s energy is the only one needed).
  • They’re quieter: This will always be an advantage for people driving (and walking) on the street. Nowadays, the noise is already lower because more electric vehicles are on the road. In these cars, there is no fossil fuel, so there will be no combustion (it’s like saying: there’s no noise).

The perks of buying a solar-powered car are many. Yet, it’s equally important to consider the cons.

The cons of solar-powered cars

  • Purchase value: These vehicles are in the development stage, and their final price is (still) a mirage. But the general prices can be quite high compared to fossil-fuel cars (diesel or gasoline). The parts used in these cars are still being studied and perfected, and since they are not mass-produced, it is understandable that their cost is higher.
  • Reduced speed: Two of the cons of solar cars are power and speed — which are justified by the amount of energy provided by the sun (which is less when compared to electric cars’ energy).
  • Adverse weather conditions: If you are in a place where it is difficult for the sun to appear and brighten the entire surrounding area, it will be more difficult to charge the batteries of your solar car. Those batteries will also take longer to charge.
  • Maintenance costs: For a solar car to run you need a lot of solar panels — the more you have, the greater the amount of energy stored. This can mean quite high costs for the owner, especially when the panels need to be replaced.

Talking about solar-powered cars is still a topic with many unanswered questions. But the automotive industry is certainly working to find the best and most sustainable solutions for our planet — and consumers.

Have you ever thought about buying a solar-powered car? If so, know that this reality is very close.