solar powered vehicles

Honda's solar race car

Honda's solar race car.

Solar-powered automobiles use solar-produced electricity to power their electric motors. Being grid-independent means a solar-powered car's performance depends on batteries and special energy-saving construction methods (light-weight construction, aerodynamics). They must also provide enough surface area for the photovoltaic cells.


Typical experimental automobiles are the solar race cars, known from the "Solar World Challenge" car race held in Australia. Producing a peak output of 3.6 kilowatts (kW), the Icar sailplane from the University of Stuttgart in Germany is one with a large wingspan and plenty of surface area for solar cells, much like the flying wing design by NASA known as the Pathfinder, which produces 12.5 kWp. Solar-powered airships have also been experimented with. Toy-makers can manufacture solar-powered cars with a Kosmos building kit.


Solar-powered boats are regularly in operation on the waterways in Hamburg, on Lake Constance and in the Sydney harbor. They are built as catamarans and use the deck to place the solar cells. The elegantly designed Solarshuttle on Lake Constance has an output of 4.2 kWp.


It is a question of definition if a conventional electric automobile that is charged with solar-produced electricity from an electricity fill-up station could be considered a solar-powered vehicle. An original design is the three-wheeled city-automobile TWIKE, whose electric propulsion can be increased by peddling. In any case, electric automobiles drive through traffic quietly and without exhaust fumes.