Several new models of electric cars are equipped with solar panels to guarantee more autonomy, but the technologies do not necessarily guarantee sustainable costs and do not necessarily bring substantial advantages.
Tesla’s long-awaited Cybertruck could be equipped with solar panels to recharge its batteries, at least in part. This information, which has not yet been officially confirmed by the brand, revives interest in the need to equip electric cars with solar panels?
The question is more complex than it seems. If, on the one hand, the technology is quite interesting on paper, on the other, given the current performance of electric cars, it is inefficient in terms of energy production and, therefore, autonomy. However, examples of cars equipped with photovoltaic panels are not lacking.
In terms of performance, the surface offered by the body of a car is not sufficient to accommodate enough photovoltaic panels to ensure good energy production. You need a surface of at least 10 m2but today it is at best half.
Moreover, with an average yield of 20%, their cost makes them incompatible with the manufacture of economically competitive cars.
Today, a car covered with solar panels can generate enough energy to allow it to travel between 20 and 30 km per day. But these are optimal conditions of sunshine, exposure and, of course, downtime, that is, the time during which the car recharges without consuming energy. In other words, a car covered in photovoltaic panels can gain 2-3 km of range per hour of parking in the sun.
Once explained why photovoltaic panels cannot provide enough energy to an electric car to move without the contribution of external charging sources, it is clear that there is no shortage of examples of cars equipped with this technology.
Among the most famous, we can cite the Aptera, a strange electric tricycle which relies on aerodynamic shapes and lightness to maximize the contribution of the sun, or the Lightyear 0, a Dutch sedan billed at 250,000 euros which will perhaps be be followed by a smaller, less expensive car. There was also Sono Motors with its Sion, but faced with the financial difficulties encountered by the brand, the project was aborted.
But why are so many of them trying their hand at such difficult technology? First of all to “dominate” a market which, if it develops, will already count them among the precursors and, normally, among the protagonists. Then because, in some cases, the contribution of the sun is not so negligible.
Aptera promises up to 60 km of autonomy thanks to its solar panels, Lightyear up to 70km. These are theoretical values, but sufficient to cover classic home-work journeys. It is still necessary that the sunshine conditions are optimal, which is not necessarily the case in the countries where the most electric cars are sold today.
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