Alternative Energy

Solar cars – it’s just the beginning

7th November 2019
Joe Bush

Solar vehicle bodywork has just progressed from curiosity to key enabling technology. The new 180-page IDTechEx report, ‘Solar Cars, Buses, Trucks, Trains 2020-2030’ explains why and forecasts the next ten years with solar cars set to reach $15bn by 2030, which will just be the beginning. The focus is mainly road vehicles - solar already provides significant car traction power. 

The report explains why anyone now designing a car or car-like vehicle will be inept if they do not at least consider solar bodywork, because a tipping point of viability has arrived, with big orders being placed. This is driven by newly affordable integral and conformal solar and solar sides to vehicles becoming viable (car, camper van, snow vehicle, small bus, boats). Prices drop for the more powerful single crystal silicon now preferred. Vehicles need less electricity. Targeting smaller batteries makes solar more appealing to combat battery shortages, fires with large batteries, size, weight and cost of ownership.

The situation with buses, large trucks and trains is also analysed – and the report explains how here only special cases get at least ten percent of power from on-board solar but it is becoming attractive. Learn the tipping points as new technologies become viable. Examples are affordable compound and multi-junction cells (Toyota, Sharp) even as wrap (Hanergy), expanding solar, solar windows and adding on-board wind-power (several on-land and boats). New user propositions include transport-with-microgrid.

The expensive new Lightyear solar car has a substantial order book and records a 730km range with half the battery needed due to best drag factor and powertrain efficiency plus good solar. Compare the parameters of the most successful solar family car, the affordable Sono Motors Sion. Over 10,000 have been ordered which is significantly higher than many traditional car companies making similar pure-electric, five-seater cars without solar. For now, failure to meet the 320km/200 mile tipping point for regular pure electric vehicles to sell well and have good resale value is no impediment.

The report shows how energy positive vehicles will become commercially available. With hybrids, learn how the giant Hyundai is setting the pace with one model newly offering a solar roof adding ten percent to the range for many light users buying it and Toyota trials generating even more power. This is now a key enabling technology. Hyundai has two other solar body types planned. There are many types of car, car-like vehicle, boat and plane that can be called a solar vehicle (increasing range by at least ten percent). Invisible or extending solar? Spray on solar? It is all here.

The executive summary, including 36 primary conclusions, assesses sales and technology, benefits and challenges and forecasts numbers, value and value market for solar cars 2020-2030, separating premium from mainstream. In Chapter 2 Introduction see the widening choices of electric vehicle powertrain and comparison of photovoltaic parameters, benefits, challenges, performance and manufacturers. Copper-indium-gallium-diselenide thin film photovoltaics are pictured in action in four countries. Why? Best practice in solar boats and aircraft gives lessons. Ten key technologies for energy-independent electric vehicles are presented. High-power energy harvesting discussion puts it in context.

Chapter 3 explores solar cars in 18 countries with emphasis on commercial success and benefits to society. Chapter 4 looks at truly solar buses and trucks and weaker precursors. Twelve countries are covered, even equatorial and Antarctic solar vehicles and multi-purposing. Chapter 4 ‘Solar for trains’ explains the modest benefit of solar on trains but huge potential of off-grid solar power for trains mainly based on trackside panels. Chapter 6 looks at ‘Lessons from agribots, aircraft and boats’ then the report ends with Chapter 7 on future enabling technologies such as bodywork that both makes and stores energy. Learn about energy-positive and multi-mode vehicles in development; their technologies and uses. The revolutionary ‘zero genset’ concept of IDTechEx is explained with its $100bn yearly potential for zero-emission mobile gensets, some combining transport services.

Solar Cars, Buses, Trucks, Trains 2020-2030’ is part of ongoing research by globetrotting PhD level analysts in IDTechEx. They carry out technical interviews in local languages and access privileged databases and are respected presenters and consultants in the subject.

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