What is Solar Transportation?
Did you know that electric cars have been around for over a century and that residential solar panels came into play in the 1950s? Now, the two technologies are in the process of merging together and the future of transportation could be heavily reliant on solar.
Solar-powered cars are one of the many ways the sun’s energy can be used to aid the transportation world.
Producing a car that will completely run on solar power will prove to be quite challenging, but people all over the world are racing to be the first to release a reliable model. Challenges like intermittency and low performance continue to plague the process, but technology continues to evolve.
European electric car company Sono Motors plans to introduce an all solar car in 2019 that will have 18 miles of range a day. Dutch startup, Lightyear One, is working on a solar car that won a Climate Change Innovator Award. The car charges itself, can supposedly drive for months without charging and has a 250-500 mile range. Lightyear One may also be hitting the road by 2019.
When it comes to solar innovation, inventors aren’t restricting their ideas to the ground. Even though they are not yet commercially viable, solar planes have taken impressive flights.
Solar Impulse 2 completed the first around-the-world flight by a solar-powered airplane in July 2018. The plane, which had a wingspan wider than a Boeing 747 and carried more than 17,000 solar cells on its wings, began the journey in March 2015 in Abu Dhabi. It crossed both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans using no fossil fuels and spent more than 23 days in the air.
The company behind that plane – Solar Impulse – is selecting 1,000 efficient solutions that are both clean and profitable to protect the environment and has solar transportation firmly in their sights.
Another company, Airbus, had a solar-powered plane that completed a maiden flight lasting 25 days, 23 hours, and 57 minutes. The new Zephyr S HAPS (High Altitude Pseudo-Satellite) was an unmanned aircraft, 75 kilograms, and offered what Airbus described as “local satellite-like services” and runs on solar power. It operated in the stratosphere at an average altitude of 70,000 feet with a wingspan of 25 meters.
The first fully solar-powered train made its first voyage in December 2017 in New South Wales, Australia and runs solely on clean energy. It has solar panels on the roof and uses the stations to charge and provide power. The train travels along a 1.9-mile-long stretch of track that previously sat abandoned for decades. The train shuttles passengers between two central areas for both residents and tourists.
The train originally had two diesel engines, which were replaced by batteries and an electric motor which serves as a backup in case of emergency. The 77 kilowatt-hour battery can hold enough charge for 12 to 15 hours and runs on a single charge.
Widespread use of solar trains may not be as far off as one might think. It will be a few years before the technology is ready but things are moving in the right direction. A technique has been devised that allows electricity to flow directly from solar panels to electrified train tracks to the trains themselves making solar-powered trains more feasible than ever. Solar trains could play a huge role in the future of public transportation.
Solar Bikes and Scooters
While the ideas above might seem far off, solar-powered personal transportation like bikes and scooters are a reality now.
A group of solar-powered e-bikes raced nearly 13,000 km (8,000 mi) from France to China in 64 days. The sun trip is a semi-annual event that pits solar-powered electric bicycle racers over incredibly long journeys.
Exploring Alternatives featured the Veemo on their YouTube channel, which is a fully closed electric assist bicycle with an 80-Watt solar panel on the roof to trickle the battery. Veemo is an easy method of transportation that reduces both carbon emissions and traffic in different cities across the world.
And the most affordable option yet is The Daymak Photon, a scooter that’s powered by a solar panel located on the base of the scooter and is constantly charging even when you are not using it. The scooter has speakers and a USB port for charging your phone or playing music. Ideal for situations involving travel of short distances.
Are you interested in going solar now? Solar transportation is the way of the future, but residential solar panels are a great option for right now!