Solar energy on wheels for CO2-free driving
This year CO2 emissions have reached historical highs and pollution is already having a direct impact on our health. Because of this, the transport sector is backing solar vehicles that will harness the advantages of renewable energy.
At the moment, nine out of ten people in the world are breathing polluted air, and around seven million die each year from ambient and indoor air pollution. These are data from the World Health Organisation, which is warning of the need to take urgent measures against harmful emissions. In May of this year average values of carbon dioxide, as measured by the Izaña Atmospheric Research Centre (Tenerife), reached a historical record that set new alarm bells ringing.
This is a warning that is set to escalate, as the International Energy Agency (IEA) points out that CO2 emissions will increase 130% by 2050 if we do not begin to take tangible measures. Consequently, EU countries have recently agreed a directive to reduce CO2emissions from cars by at least 35% by 2030.
Last year 24% of global emissions came from the transport sector. Faced with this reality, cars that use non-polluting alternative fuels are becoming ever more significant in the motor industry.
For this reason, entities such as Banco Santander are already contributing to this transition toward a low carbon economy through the leasing and renting of vehicles to promote the use of hybrid or electrical cars. The bank describes this transition to renewables as “a global priority to mitigate the effects of climate change”.
This vision is also shared by the transport company DHL Group, which has just launched Trailar, a technology developed by two company employees that recharges trucks with clean energy thanks to ultra-thin, flexible panels that are placed on the roof of vehicles.
Various international companies are backing the development of more sustainable alternatives and the manufacture of vehicles that have renewable energies in their DNA and which harness the advantages of solar energy.
These are four of the most innovative examples that are being worked on at the moment or that are already available to buy on the international market:
Stella Vie, the most aerodynamic Dutch solar car on the market
Stella Vie is the “commercial model with the most aerodynamic design that there is right now on the market“. That is how it is described by mechanical engineer and member of the team at the Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands), Bram Lomans, who is developing this innovative vehicle. It is a fully solar car with room to carry up to five passengers.
Its roof, composed of solar panels, gives it a range of up to 1,000 kilometres on a sunny day. In addition it has a battery that stores surplus energy, which can then be used for other devices in your home, thus promoting energy recycling.
For Lomans, two of the major challenges facing this type of vehicle are “both the production of curved solar panels and the achievement of lightweight designs”. Stella Vie has not yet been launched on the market and is still in the improvement and development phase.
Mö, the first bio-hybrid Spanish vehicle suitable for urban transport
Just the aesthetics of Mö already make it a unique specimen. Its compact design with a touch of vintage already makes it one of the more unique bio-hybrid vehicles. This is a Spanish project that originated in Malaga, and it is built with sustainable materials of organic origin that are easily recyclable.
Mö has been positioned as a great ally for daily use in urban areas. It can go in bike lanes and does not need any type of license to drive it, as the driving is done through a multi-function joystick. It weighs 100 kilos, has space for two passengers and is approved as a pedelec (pedal electric cycle), i.e. as a type of electric bike.
Mö has an electric motor that runs thanks to a battery charged by solar panels that are integral to the vehicle itself. But it also has assisted pedalling in order to increase its range. Recharged by solar energy, it is able to cover up to 25 kilometres with the amount of CO2 it produces being 0 gr/km.
According to its creators, Mö is able to travel more than 5,000 kilometres per year using only solar energy, even in conditions where the sun is scarce. You can already pre-order this peculiar solar car from Evovelo.
Sion, German technology to reinvigorate the automotive industry
The major differentiating feature of Sion is that it is an electric vehicle that feeds off solar energy whilst being driven. How does it do it? Thanks to the fact that it is endowed with a series of photovoltaic cells that allow it to recharge its batteries whilst driving.
It has an electric propulsion system with a range of over 250 kilometres thanks to its batteries and solar panels. Moreover, the 330 flexible photovoltaic panels that cover the seven square metres of its bodywork allow Sion to get around 30 kilometres extra so that it does not have to rely on external charging points.
This solar vehicle, manufactured by the German startup Sono Motors will arrive in 2019 and will come onto the market priced at 16,000 euros, although the battery, with an estimated price from the manufacturer of 4,000 euros, will not be included. The option of pre-ordering is already available on their web site.
Prove Dawn, the American solar car that aspires to be the fastest on the market
Prove Dawn is the name of this supersonic vehicle that looks space-aged, developed by students from PROVE Lab and the California State Polytechnic University.
Its electric motor takes advantage of up to 97% solar energy thanks to the 605 cells that cover its bodywork, generating 2.5 kilowatts. Its goal is to break records and become the fastest solar car on the market. It claims to go faster than 100 kilometres per hour, a feasible speed given that its structural material is carbon fibre, which gives it a weight of around 200 kilos, including the driver.
One aspect that is also different to other cars are the wheels. Prove Dawn replaces conventional tyres with four high-performance bicycle wheels. The control panel is also different; a pair of joysticks are responsible for determining direction. This American model has not yet been released to the market and the team is continuing to improve its capabilities.
By Marta Sotres