Solar energy may seem freely available to anyone with the right tools to collect it, but there is still a price we have to pay – and it is geography. Researchers may be pushing solar cells technology to ever greater levels of efficiency, but even the current leader in the field captures less than half of the sunlight reaching it. To gather practical amounts of power, solar panels still need a huge surface area – so, still no good for our favorite modes of personal transportation? Not so, say these three cutting-edge vehicle designs.
(Images via: Gizmodo)
Problem: as you drive your panel-studded car around, your angle in relation to the sun changes and your solar cells fail to fulfil their (modest) potential. Solution? Change the shape of your car. The BMW Lovos concept car may look like it lost a fight with a combine harvester, but in fact all those metal plates are individual solar panels that independently rotate to capture the maximum possible sunlight, and even double as airbrakes. (Presumably they would require a lot of power – well, you see the problem).
(Images via: TechFresh)
Or you could stick to a more conventional design by flattening your vehicle and sweeping your solar panel in an unbroken arc over the top of it, as with the Quaranta from Italdesign Giugiaro. It looks gorgeous, but it is still a long way from being an electric car – that huge panel only collects enough juice to charge the battery and feed the onboard electronics. Under the bonnet the Quaranta is a cutting-edge 4WD 268-horsepower hybrid.
(Image via: Autoblog Green)
No, the designers of the SunRed solar powered motorbike do not expect you to squint through a tiny window as you gun your wheels down the road. The clamshell cover only opens out fully when the bike is at rest, providing an impressive 3 square metres of solar panelling. Nice idea if married with a bigger battery (this concept design only stores enough power to propel you 13 miles) and it focuses on the longest part of a vehicle’s life, the time it is at rest. So how about a design that blends all three of these innovations – and would it make garages a thing of the past?