No, You Can't Have A (Fully-) Solar Car

Do the Math is a quantitative blog that looks at current issues in a back-of-the envelope fashion. The latest entry is a calculation of exactly what it would take to make a production solar car run. I once delivered much the same calculation to a bunch of undergrads in a policy course during my solar car building days. They were kind of bummed by the numbers.

As far as I can tell, the only real application for on-vehicle solar cells is powering a fan in the car to keep it cool during hot days. This reduces air conditioning load when returning to the vehicle after it has been parked for a while, ultimately saving fuel or battery charge. PV is just too expensive and low-power for anything else. If you want a real solar car, charge your EV from the roof array on your house instead of hauling around a bunch of fragile cells.

Thanks to Ned Gulley for the reference.

Image by the MIT Solar Electric Vehicle Team. I wish they had a good photo of my beloved Manta.

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