If you thought solar was only good for generating electricity from rooftops — think again! Solar is now being integrated into some of our most vital modes of transportation.
Because weight is a big factor, many solar powered vehicles these days are very compact. The new Stella, recently built by a sharp group of students from The Netherlands, is a spacious, solar-powered family car that seats four.
Stella is crafted from aluminum and lightweight carbon and has an operating distance of about 373 miles on a single charge. Its solar panels generate more power than it needs to operate, and allows its excess energy to be discharged back into the power grid.
Wish Stella luck on the upcoming World Solar Challenge.
Leave it to young college engineers with a penchant for competition to organize, build and race their solar powered vehicles — aka racecars — at the Formula Sun Grand Prix.
These low, slick, flat vehicles look more like cartoon spaceships than automobiles. Their top speed is about 85mph, however the Grand Prix is about endurance: the winning car is the one that drives the most laps in three days powered by nothing but the sun. This year’s winning team — with 193 laps (661 mi) — hails from Oregon State University.
They say necessity is the mother of invention, which is what prompted Jim Greer or Nyack, New York (home of RevoluSun’s newest office!) to build his 48-foot trimaran boat named “Ra” — the Egyptian word for sun.
“I wanted to go for a boat ride and I didn’t have enough money for fuel,” says Greer. So he built a boat powered by 15 solar panels.
There’s also the world’s largest solar-powered boat, the MS Tûranor.
The Solar Impulse recently made history by crossing the United States from San Francisco to New York in just over 24 hours. The solar-powered plane has an enormous wingspan of 200 feet, which is fitted with ultra-thin, lightweight SunPower PV panels.
During peak hours of sunlight, the aircraft can charge its batteries (storing up to 100kWhrs of power) and climb up to an altitude of about 30,000 feet. Once sun power isn’t available, the pilots shut off its engines are glide for hours before switching to batter power.
The next flight? Around the world, of course. Stay tuned — they say it’ll be sometime in 2015.
The Lightening SuperBike is a pretty fitting name for this solar-powered motorcycle, which also happens to be the world’s fastest street legal production motorcycle. Top speed: 218mph.
The bike has a 125 kW electric motor — equivalent to a 167 hp engine — and charges using a mobile charging station. Its operating distance is 100 miles on the highway and 160 miles in the city.
Guess how much it costs to run this SuperBike? Free, of course, if you’re charging it from your own panels.