Methods of using Solar Energy as a Fuel in Cars
Let us see second method of using the solar energy in solar cars:
- Cars running on solar energy and gasoline: The cars running on two fuels like gasoline and electricity are called as hybrid cars. In most of the hybrid cars running on the roads, gasoline and electricity are used as the fuel. They are equipped with the engine that runs on the gasoline and motor that receives power from the battery. These hybrid car runs on the motor or engine or both depending on the speed and power requirements of the car. The battery is charged by the engine when your car runs on the engine.
In the hybrid cars the solar cell or photovoltaic cells can be mounted at the top to absorb solar energy and convert it into electrical energy, which can charge the battery. In this case the battery is not taking power from the engine, but from the photovoltaic cell, thus the battery is actually producing additional power.
The power produced by the photovoltaic cell may not be sufficient alone to drive the car, but it adds to the overall power produced by the car. The engine has to produce lesser power so they will consume lesser fuel. The hybrid cars running on gasoline and solar energy require lesser fuel and the car gives higher mileage.
There are chances that the battery of such a hybrid car may get discharged due to insufficient solar energy or during long drives. In such cases the hybrid car can take power entirely from the engine or the battery can get charged by the engine, thus the vehicle will still keep on running as the hybrid car.
Lots of research has been carried out on the solar cars. In some cases the traditional cars like Toyota Prius have been installed with the photovoltaic cells. In other cases entirely new models of vehicles with different shapes, sizes and capacities have been designed to run completely on the solar energy.
The new models of the cars, running completely on the solar energy, produce much lesser power than the traditional models of the cars from popular companies. They have sitting capacity for few people and are not equipped with the modern amenities that require additional electrical power. In fact most of these models are prototypes and they are not full-fledge functional cars. The completely functional and efficient solar cars have a long way to go.
Major Hindrances in Solar Cars
Here are some of the major hindrances in the development of solar cars:
The current generated by the photovoltaic cells is very small. To drive the car and produce sufficient amount of power large sizes of the photovoltaic cells is required. They have to be mounted at the roof of the car so as to collect the solar energy effectively. The photovoltaic cells require lots of space and they have their weight as well. The photovoltaic cells even covering the whole car may not be enough to produce sufficient power.
The photovoltaic cells are still very expensive and as their number increases the cost of the vehicle increases further. Their cost will only reduce when they are widely accepted throughout the world and mass manufacturing is carried with cheaper cost of raw materials.
The solar energy is not available 24 hours a day and during cloudy skies its intensity reduces. This can be major hindrance if your vehicle is running entirely on the solar energy. The only solution to this is that your car should be hybrid or the battery should be large enough to store large quantities of power.
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Solar Car (Source: Wikipedia)
How Photovoltaic Cells Work?
Renewable Energy Sources: Solar Energy: Part-1
What is Energy?