Solar Cars- The Future of Urban Transportation?

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A new study about the potential of solar-powered vehicles in the urban context shows that solar energy can reduce charging needs by half, and provide between 11 and 29 km per day.

Despite electric vehicles becoming more and more common, the automotive sector is still responsible for a third of global CO2 emissions worldwide, so there is still a need to significantly decrease the emissions associated with mobility.

According to Techxplore, the integration of solar power into electric vehicles can be a solution, reducing CO2 emissions associated with electricity generation, as well as charging costs and frequency.

Miguel Centeno Brito is a researcher at IDL at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, and first author of the study. He explains: “Cities are today the main market for electric vehicles and, due to the relatively small traveled distances, are particularly interesting for solar-powered vehicles. However, in urban areas, we have buildings, trees and other obstacles casting shadows onto the roads thus limiting the solar potential of driving or parked vehicles. The purpose of the work was to assess if the impact of these shadows is a significant limitation to the potential of solar cars.”

The study further states that the best cities for solar-powered vehicles are in Africa, the Middle East, southern Europe and Southeast Asia, although there is some promising potential in places like China, North America and Australia. Despite shading in cities, the study claims they do not cause more than 25% charging loss, so although relevant, they’re not an impediment to the large-scale implementation of this solution.

With urban populations ever growing, and rising concerns about environmental sustainability becoming increasingly urgent, solar-powered vehicles are a very promising solution. “Our results can help establish a roadmap for policymakers and the automotive industry to accelerate the transition to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly urban future,” concludes Miguel Centeno Brito.