A solar-powered electric car that runs without needing charging may sound impossible. Still, Toyota, Sharp, and NEDO (New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan) have joined forces to make it a reality hopefully.
If such a car were driven four days a week for a maximum of 50 kilometers each day, it wouldn’t need charging, says Toyota engineers.
By pairing together the best solar panels on the market with the most efficient batteries available — not to mention years’ worth of experience with car manufacturing — the companies are hoping, theoretically, to produce a vehicle that might run forever.
“The solar car’s advantage is that, while it can’t drive for a long-range, it’s independent of charging facilities.”
One of the main drawbacks with fully electric cars is that, even if their sales were to surpass those of petroleum-based vehicles, they’d still need to be charged — which, in turn, means a string of charging docks, requiring space and further funds.
Conversely, the sun provides readily available energy without the need for charging docks or extra costs.
Coupled with a high enough battery capacity to keep a vehicle running during darker hours, solar-powered cars have the potential to completely outdo other new types of tech that are currently in the pipeline — from hybrid vehicles to hydrogen-powered cars.
Though this may seem just one small step in the effort to marry together solar energy with a vehicle that works, it’s substantial progress considering the large energy expenditure required to shift a car’s weight.
Because the solar cells the companies are working on are only 0.03 mm thick, they can be attached to a wider variety of surfaces, including curved areas on cars like the roof, the hood, or the hatchback.
In addition to the fact that the technology behind this venture has introduced a new efficiency, there’s also the fact that vehicles can be charged in motion — something that has, until recently, been impossible.
According to NEDO representative Mitsuhiro Yamazaki, if such a car were driven four days a week for a maximum of 50 kilometers each day, it wouldn’t be necessary to charge it at a dock.
To build the optimum solar-powered vehicle, there are still many aspects that need working on. There need to be workarounds to enable such a vehicle to run efficiently in areas that aren’t quite sunny or are more like deserts in terms of their climate.
“This is not a technology we are going to see widely used in the next decades,” auto-analyst at Carnorama consultancy Takeshi Miyao told Bloomberg. “It’s going to take a long time.”