Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming more popular every day, as people look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and save money on fuel — but what if you could power your EV with another clean and renewable source of energy: solar panels?

That’s the idea behind some of the latest innovations in the automotive industry. Car makers are developing vehicles that can harness solar energy and use it to extend their range, lower their emissions, and even cut their operating costs.

The Toyota Prius 2023 feature an optional solar roof capable of charging the car’s battery (Image: Toyota)

The big change

Toyota made headlines when it unveiled its next-generation Prius, featuring an optional solar roof capable of charging the car’s battery. Unlike earlier models that could only power the air conditioner, this new Prius can charge its battery while parked, thanks to the solar panel. Although it doesn’t generate a significant amount of power, it’s enough to drive for a short distance — and the best part is that it’s completely free!

Sono Motors’ Sion has solar panels that charge its battery giving an extra 150 miles of range per week.  (Image: Sono Motors)

But Toyota isn’t the only company rethinking EVs; in 2022, Sono Motors introduced the Sion, a five-seater car entirely covered in solar technology. The solar panels on the Sion charge its smaller battery from any angle, providing an extra 150 miles of range per week under ideal conditions. In an interview with CNBC, Laurin Hahn, co-CEO and co-founder of Sono Motors, highlighted that this equates to 5,700 miles per year at no cost, making it perfect for daily commuters.

Lightyear 0 is also making waves in the industry by producing electric vehicles with integrated solar panels on the top and hood. These innovative solar panels cover an area of five square meters (about 54 square feet) and can generate an estimated 6,800 miles of range per year.

Solar panels: A revolution in the EV industry

Integrating solar energy with EVs has long been a dream for many, but several challenges hindered its realization. The primary obstacle was that existing solar panels designed for cars were not large or powerful enough to sustain an entire vehicle. Additionally, cars lacked sufficient space for an adequately sized solar collection system.

However, thanks to consumer demands and scientific advancements, more vehicles running on solar power systems are expected in the future. This development has the potential to revolutionize the EV industry by harnessing the power of renewable energy sources like solar power.

Forget larger batteries: Improving efficiency is the key

The application of solar technology extends beyond cars. Sono Motors is currently piloting solar-powered solutions for various large vehicles, including buses, refrigerated vehicles, and recreational vehicles. Even solar-topped trailers could reap significant benefits, with even minor improvements in range or recharging time resulting in substantial cost savings. Ultimately, integrating solar energy with EVs is a more cost-effective and eco-friendly option.

Lex Hoefsloot, CEO of Lightyear, expressed his optimism, stating, “More and more manufacturers are realizing that larger batteries will remain expensive in the future. Therefore, improving efficiency is the key to extending range without the need for a bulky battery.”

So, keep an eye out for the promising future where solar-powered vehicles become the norm, paving the way for greener transportation solutions!

Filed in Transportation. Read more about and .

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