Will EV’s Need Solar To Stretch Range To 1000 miles?

Range anxiety, or the fear of running out of charge on your electric vehicle (EV) with not a charger in sight, or the thought of waiting for hours to get a full charge, has been a real issue for EV’s to manage. While it is not faced by manufacturer’s selling EV’s for dense urban environments, like E-rickshaws or two wheelers, for longer commutes and situations, apprehensions remain. Even EESL cut back on its large 10,000 vehicle tender of 2019 when government employees using the cards complained of range issues. That has led to many in the global industry setting an ambitious 1000 Mile (1600+ km) range for the coming generation of larger EV’s.

Energy-independent technologies have emerged, including solar. Consider the single-crystal silicon on the sides, which was demonstrated to be viable by Sono Motors at CES 2021.

Beyond land, solar boats– are appearing with effectively infinite range because of the availability of a large area for solar, so much so that some boats possess the generating capacity to supply three houses upon arrival at a harbour. 

Solar racing cars have been designed for school students, that can also run exclusively on solar power, by squeezing their drivers for ultra-low drag factors and by using expensive 3-5 compound solar, both of which are unsuitable options for vehicles meant for everyday travel. Yet these developments indicate a coming period of innovations in space travel to land travel, from robot shuttles to trucks and cars. Established clean energy companies, like Tesla and Lucid, and startups like Aptera, are all working to extend the range.

San Diego-based Aptera unveiled a new solar-based three-wheeler in December last year, which is touted as never having to be recharged and offering a 1,000-mile battery-electric range as well. Tesla and Lucid’s existing vehicles already offer more than 500 miles range through low drag factor, light-weighting with composite materials, more efficient power electronics, aluminum monocoque et al. And all this is without resorting to solar. The famed Tesla Roadster achieves 620 miles by doubling the battery size. Lightyear solar family cars can reach around 500 miles range. They have exceptionally extensive solar bodywork and, more importantly, more efficient in-wheel motors which have also worked for Tesla in enhancing its range. Many of these vehicles, whose exterior is already largely made of glass, are set to use solar building windows as material  soon like Hyundai’s upcoming translucent solar roof. 

Other plans for range-extending technologies include: using infra-red harvesting surfaces under vehicles in hot countries; adding perovskite to silicon on the top and sides so as to capture infrared and light over maximum area; increasing electricity generation by at least 10%, etc. Further improvements will be  possible once autonomous taxis, shuttles, and buses emerge which dispense with the weight and space of the driver. Windy countries can make use of wind turbines that pop out when a vehicle halts. 

While chargers have nothing to fear right now, clearly the situation could be very different by the time EV’s become normal, ie by 2050.

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