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Solar Powered Cars

Solar powered cars, although they were invented over forty years ago, are still not widely used today. The biggest limitation to solar cars is the photovoltaic panels that are used. Until just recently PV panels were only about 10% efficient so to power a car they had to cover a lot of space, and they still didn’t generate enough power for high speeds desired by motorists. 20 mph was the average speed on early models, but they could only carry one person.

Solar powered cars work in conjunction with a battery that is charged by the solar panels. This allows the car to continue powered movement even during cloudy weather, and possibly at night. Solar car races are won and lost based on how well the driver conserves power, however conserving too much power will result in slower speeds. With recent increases in PV cell efficiency, solar panels are beginning to be used more often on motor vehicles, although not as the primary source of energy.

Hybrid solar powered cars use solar panels in combination with another source of energy. That source could be a traditional gasoline or diesel engine, a fuel cell, wind power or even a regular electric plug to charge a battery. This allows for quick acceleration, high speeds and the ability to be driven in any weather or time of day that are demanded by motorists while still utilizing as much renewable energy as possible. Until photovoltaic panels are incredibly more efficient these hybrids will help the transition to renewable energy.


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