L’automobile
solaire pour
bientôt?

Pensez-y bien!
N’aimeriez-vous
pas conduire une
automobile qui
produirait
absolument aucune
mauvaise émission,
qui n'exigerait pas
de carburant
coûteux, qui serait
silencieuse et qui
exigerait peu
d'entretien?

L'auteur Tobie
Boutot explique
la fonction et les
bienfaits d'une
auto électrique.
L'un des bienfaits,
c'est que les
véhicules solaires
n'exigent pas de
remplissage et de
vidanges d'huiles.

On explique
également les
désavantages, tels
les coûts élevés.
Cependant, il
déclare que: 
"En promouvant
la recherche et en
éduquant les gens
sur les véhicules
zéro émission, 
on pourrait bientôt
conduire cette
automobile
fantastique."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

===========

"... the solar
car does not
require any
refuelling
and oil
changes.

This means
that on a
nice sunny
day, you
can drive
non-stop
all day." 

===========

The Solar Car
How Soon?

   Tobie Boutot
   UNB Solar Car Team
   October 2000

 

he idea of driving an automobile which produces zero harmful emissions, does not require expensive fuel, is quiet and very low maintenance, has certainly been around, but has been more of a fantasy. Today, this is not entirely true. For more than a decade, universities around the world have been testing and racing those cars. It is the Solar Car.


(photo: Jody Sugrue)

Solar cars have several similarities to the every day car. They have a motor, wheels, seats, steering wheel, brakes and more. Also, they require some kind of fuel and in this case, it’s the sun, which is why it’s called the solar car. The sun cannot power the car directly; some conversion must happen between the sun and the wheels. This is the same with your everyday automobile. The explosion of the fossil fuel in the motor gives power to the wheels. For the solar car, the sun’s energy is converted to electricity with the help of the solar cells. The electricity is used to power the electric motor which turns the wheels. It is very important for the car to be very efficient since its power source is the sun and it may not be present all the time. For that reason, solar cars are built with an aerodynamic shape to reduce wind friction and are made very light. When there is excess energy supplied by the sun it is stored in batteries for cloudy days or night. To increase the efficiency even more, the motor can operate as a generator. Instead of using only the brakes to stop, some of that energy coming from the motor (generator) can be stored in the batteries. In general, a solar car is 5 meters long 2 meters wide. It can seat one or two persons, depending on the design. It is very low to the ground and can go as fast as a small automobile.


(photo: Jody Sugrue)


The solar car has many benefits. One of the most important benefits is that it produces no harmful emission in the air when it’s running. The conversion of the sun’s energy into electricity is done through the exchange of photons and electrons inside the solar cell. Since the sun is available to everyone at all times during the day, and at no cost, the solar car does not require any refuelling and oil changes. This means that on a nice sunny day, you can drive non-stop all day. The electric motor is much more efficient and quiet than the gasoline engine. There are usually no vibrations produced by the motor and the motor is generally smaller and maintenance free. The car is also much lighter.

Of course, the solar car has some disadvantages. One important disadvantage is that it cannot operate for a long period of time at night. Also, during a cloudy day, the speed must be reduced considerably for a long distance. For example, at full sun, the car can average approximately 80km/h for a full day, but with clouds, its average speed may drop to 50km/h for a full day. Another important disadvantage is cost. A good solar car can easily cost more than $200,000. Solar cells and batteries are very expensive mainly because the car requires high performance and light weight materials. Most materials on the car are not produced in large quantities so they can be very expensive. Furthermore, solar cells are not very efficient. The standard cells are only 14% efficient. 30% efficient solar cells are available but are extremely expensive. Also, solar cells and batteries do not produce any dangerous emissions but the materials needed to build those components are extremely toxic.

======   Suntreck 2000 Journee  ======

(photo: Jody Sugrue)


So why are there no solar cars on the road? Well actually there are; once every second year. There are 2 popular races in the world. One, called the American Solar Challenge, happens between Chicago and Palm Springs and is approximately 2200km. The World Solar Challenge is the second race and is held in Australia. This race is 3000km. At the World Solar Challenge, the first group to have an average speed of 100km/h during the whole race wins one million dollars. During those races, the solar cars share the roads with the regular traffic.

Much work remains to be done before a average person can drive a solar car to work. The cost of materials must be reduced and more research is needed to improve the performance of solar cells and batteries. By promoting research and educating people on zero emission vehicles, soon, we will be driving this fantasy car.