Photo: borman 818 (flickr)
Not only is automobile exhaust a major contributor to greenhouse gases, but oil is a nonrenewable source of energy.
As the world’s oil supplies dwindle, research into alternative energy sources to power automobiles is becoming a necessity.
Solar Power Alternative
One such alternative energy source is solar power. What’s not to love about a renewable energy source that doesn’t pollute the planet? Solar powered cars have the added benefit of eliminating fuel costs. Why aren’t car manufacturers marketing solar cars already? Well, it’s not because the technology to produce solar powered cars doesn’t exist, but in part because solar power presents certain obstacles when it comes to powering cars.
For starters, current trends in car design are ill-suited to solar power. In order for a car to run effectively on energy from the sun, it needs to be light and efficient in design. Conventional cars such as SUVs are anything but, and as such, would be difficult to power adequately with solar cells.
Second, the sun isn’t available 24 hours a day. If a solar powered car is to operate when the sun isn’t visible, it has to store some of its energy in a battery. A battery, however, adds significant weight to a car, reducing its speed and acceleration. To overcome this obstacle, engineers are working on designing lighter, more efficient batteries.
Finally, if a car needs to drive a very long distance, it may need to store some of the energy it collects while driving, which will also reduce speed and acceleration. The good news is that in most cases, cars can store adequate energy while parked, and thus when on the road direct the bulk of their energy toward powering the vehicle.