Solar Powered Cars
Technology on the Brink
You have probably seen test runs of the solar car on the Discovery channel, or maybe heard or read a news story on the topic, but it's pretty unlikely you've seen one up close and in action. Unfortunately, so far, the solar powered car is so far not a practical form of transportation. They are actually very similar in the basic concepts that define most automobiles. They have a cockpit, with brakes, rear view mirrors, acceleration, turn signals, and the other basic amenities you'd expect to find at the cars in the dealership. However unlike conventional vehicles, they have a less reliable source of power.
The technology used is very similar to that used in solar panels. Like a solar panel, the solar car uses Photovoltaic (PV) cells to convert solar energy into electricity, so the car is, in fact, electric, but it generally solely relies on solar power. This fact makes it less reliable than a battery charged electric car, and is why solar cars have not yet made it into the mainstream market. Solar cars embody the brightest innovations and improvements in efficiency, and also in making vehicles light-weight and therefore easier to
compel forward. The innovators do this by making the seats and frame out of lighter materials than conventional ones. The aerodynamic nature of these vehicles is what makes them efficient. However, while they may be efficient, another issue with the marketability of the solar car is that they rarely carry more than two passengers and often are not shaped for the average car lane.
Solar Car Racing
Referred to as "rayces" in the solar car racing community, sponsored events are becoming more popular as solar powered vehicle technology develops. There are several such rayces with worldwide popularity, like the World Solar Challenge, the American Solar Challenge, and also the Dell-Winston Solar Challenge. Often sponsored by government agencies, like the
US department of energy, the events are not only a showcase for the inventors, but also a promotion of up and coming alternative technologies. The events draw a scattering of intellectuals, University engineering department submissions, corporate submissions, members of the public who are interested to see what's new in solar car technology, and even a few groups of high school students try their hand to see what they can produce.