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Cars solar electric car

Published on August 13th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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Solar-Powered City Car Gets €2.8 Million

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August 13th, 2013 by Zachary Shahan 

Originally published on Solar Love.

Generally speaking, I don’t think solar-powered cars are very practical. They are fun and do highlight how far we’ve come. They may help to advance certain electric car technologies and designs. However, except for certain niche situations (like a hospital car for rural Zimbabwe), they have serious limitations.

For one, solar panels aren’t cheap — risking their destruction or damage in a car accident doesn’t seem wise. Secondly, the sun doesn’t shine 24/7. To maximize the power you can get out of an electric car + solar panel system, it’s generally best to put the solar panels somewhere that’s never shaded by anything but the clouds or an eclipse (i.e., not on top of a car) and then charge up the electric car when it’s parked nearby (which is likely to be for many hours a day).

solar electric carSo, I was a little surprised to stumble across this story about a city car prototype that is only powered by solar power. The car is apparently being developed by 6 European companies, and it has been awarded €2.8 million in funding. Tehran Times writes:

The vehicle, which weighs less than 600kg, is designed specifically to meet the needs of city travelers in sunny south-European regions, and has a maximum speed of 100km/h and a range of 20km.

The “vehicle’s performance met our expectations for the design. It showed very high stability on small radius curves and had an average energy consumption of around 80 Watt-hours per kilometer,” said Pietro Perlo, CEO of Interactive Fully Electrical Vehicles (IFEVS), who has coordinated the project.  The vehicle has been tested last month at Fiat’s testing track in Turin.

The “design has met the highest safety ranking, a low footprint and extremely low energy consumption, making the vehicle ideal for most people’s needs in cities as well as suburban roads,” Perlo said.


April 1 is a long way off, so I’m assuming this is not a joke. Furthermore, the “P-MOB” project involves some pretty big names: Germany-based Siemens, Spain-based Mazel, Italy-based Fiat and Polimodel, the UK-based Magnetomatics, and the University of Sheffield.

Here’s more from the Tehran Times article:

The integrated ICT-based control systems used in the car allow two motors and two differentials operating at the same time. The vehicle’s front and rear axles are thus independent, providing effective four-wheel drive, as well as variation of the torque ratio, depending on driving conditions.

“Our vehicle is the first with a two-motor powertrain with one motor per axle,” Perlo said.

Such a solution, the researchers believe, increases vehicle control on small radius curves, improves adherence on wet and icy roads, and provides faster acceleration without drawing more power. Similarly to passenger aircraft, if one motor fails the other will enable the journey to continue without compromising safety.

At the same time, the team has been working on the design elements to boost the efficiency of the solely solar-powered city car. They looked at several building blocks, including aerodynamic design to reduce drag and lightweight, low-cost but safe bodies.

“We have two doors on one side only, ensuring a high degree of safety, better ergonomics and reduced complexity with extremely low aerodynamic drag – around 30 per cent lower than other vehicles of the same dimensions,” said Perlo.

The car’s smart photovoltaic panels with smart diodes and self-adapting electronics minimise loss of energy caused by imperfect light conditions or a single malfunctioning cell. If the need arises and the sun is simply not enough, the car can be plugged into a regular socket and charged in the same manner as conventional electric cars.

Interesting… what do you think?

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About the Author

spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as the director/chief editor. Otherwise, he's probably enthusiastically fulfilling his duties as the director/editor of Solar Love, EV Obsession, Planetsave, or Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and wind energy expert. If you would like him to speak at a related conference or event, connect with him via social media. You can connect with Zach on any popular social networking site you like. Links to all of his main social media profiles are on ZacharyShahan.com.



  • anti_banker

    Does it have solar panels on the hood (bonnet) in addition to those on the roof? That would also help a little.

  • Ronald Brakels

    These cars work. Just don’t make the mistake of thinking they will appeal to everybody. But my grandmother could drive one of these and never need to plug it in to recharge. (Note: She does live in Australia.) She only ever drives to go to the shops to buy groceries and to the cemetary in order to laugh at all the people who couldn’t hack it.

    These cars also work as a second car (or in Australia perhaps an eighth car) that people can use during the day or for shorter trips at night, and again lots of people would never have to plug them in. They’re the sort of car parents will buy their children when they are old enough to drive because they don’t want them hanging around the house and because they know that increasing the number of teenagers in a car dramatically increases the probability of an accident.

    This car would handle almost all my own driving needs without having to be plugged in, but every now and then I’d have to stop and charge it. The good news is that it should take less than an hour to fully charge it from a normal European standard power socket. If the car was cheap enough I would buy one. (Although we really should change Australian car registration rules to make it easier for people to buy little “fuel savers” like this.)

  • Omega Centauri

    I like the idea of adding panels to an EV or PHEV. However you’l only get some supplemental charging this way. Better than nothing, kind of a range extender, with how much extension you get being highly dependent on conditions.

    One problem: current LiIon chemistries don’t like being in charged and in the heat for extended periods. Park in the shade -oops, no solar-charge!

  • Bob_Wallace

    Let’s see…. Can’t park in ‘highrise canyon’, a parking garage, under a tree, where even a one story building would throw shadow half the day, east, west or north of a large vehicle, …. Easy to find that sort of parking spot in any city.

    Designing a (safe) low weight, aerodynamic city car – nice idea. Put the door on the front, keep overall length short, and two or three could park ‘head in’ in a regular curbside parking place.

    Put the panels somewhere so that they get all available sunshine – a better idea. Install wireless charging in the parking spots.

    • anti_banker

      “a range of 20km” is extremely low, however, I guess some people drive less than 20 km per day so for them it would be ok – and that should be expected of a solar powered electric vehicle. A bicycle might be a better bet, only problem there is when it’s raining.

      How about a pedal powered, 4 wheeler “quadricycle” fully enclosed, with roof? Or, how about pedal power being added to this vehicle above in the article. Might sound rediculous, but the mayor of London rides a bike to work every day and pedal power might be a nice backup, when the charge runs out and there is no sun shining. You may however need at least 2 people to pedal when the charge runs out as the vehicle is still relatively heavy. (That’s if this idea is even feasable in the first place). Obiously you would also have to stay less than 25-30 km from work.

      Think about it, you could save time by not having to go to the gym everyday and loose weight in the process. You might get to work with sore muscles for the first few weeks, but you’ll get used to it after that. People climb in their cars just to drive 5 minutes down the road nowdays. No wonder we are so fat!!!

      • James Lovejoy

        See the elf.
        Electric assist enclosed “bicycle” with 350 lb. load capacity, 20+ miles range (without manual assist with an 8 lb. battery.) 7hr solar recharge, and 1 hr. from the outlet. And since the battery is only 8 lb. maybe just have a spare battery charging while you use the bike. Finally, 1800 miles per gallon equivalent and that’s without solar charging which can boost the mileage per gallon equivalent to whatever target you set.
        Rather price at just under $5,000, and doesn’t meet my needs since I regularly transport my grand niece and grand nephew, and it’s a one person vehicle, but a vehicle in actual production that provides proof of concept for where we should go.

  • wattleberry

    Whilst we envisaged this some time ago, the rapidity of its appearance, given the present state of the PV art, is surprising.Although its limited range shows the power supply so far is unable to ‘keep up’ with demand, the mere existence of such a vehicle must beget speedy improvement post-concept. Fantastic!

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    So, when you buy this car, it comes with a solar PV system? If that is the case, then *any* EV could be solar powered. And while this car might have 30% lower aero drag than other similar sized cars – I don’t think that having fewer doors is how it achieves lower drag.

    This car has some similarities with Gordon Murray’s T27.

    Neil

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