Solar Cars Are Coming, But at What Price — and Are They Right for You?

A practical solar car was the stuff of sci-fi, mostly relegated to proof of concept, but lately that has changed with three credible manufacturers launching them. Long-range EV buyers who think they can completely sever the cord with these cars will be disappointed, but those with a realistic idea of ​​their driving needs might be delighted.

All of these early market leaders still rely on plug-in charging, but are banking on solar charging as the first method to cover most normal journeys. Whether that’s true depends on each rider’s mileage and access to sunlight; Clean car geeks who love to keep their car indoors or under cover don’t need to apply.

light year 0

That light year 0 comes along as the most sophisticated of the early solar cars, and for a quarter million dollars, it was better. Don’t worry, the next two cars I show you cost about the same as sales tax on this one.

According to Lightyear, the 54-square-foot solar panels on top of their car can harvest up to 45 miles of range per day, in addition to a total battery range of about 390 miles (according to the European WLTP test cycle, which tends to be optimistic). compared to US ratings). From that range, 320 miles can be accumulated in about an hour when connected to a DC fast charger.

The Lightyear One with optional rear aero fairings and most of its solar panels on display.

light year

The Lightyear 0 weighs just under 3,500 pounds, which is slim by today’s standards, especially for a car with a heavy battery pack that typically weighs between 500 and 800 pounds. Some of that weight reduction comes from the use of simple, compact in-wheel motors, which is something of a given in the solar car business.

Only 950 of these cars are intended for initial production Sales restricted to the UK and parts of the EU.

Son Sion

At the other end of the price spectrum is the Sono Motors Sion at around $30,000, an extrapolation since this car is also not intended for the US market. The Sion offers 190 miles of total range and 70 to 150 miles per week of solar range, another example of the rather tortured dual-range estimates that solar automakers provide due to the two different ways their cars get electrical power.

Sono Sion charges a TeslaSono Sion charges a Tesla

The Sono Sion’s design is all business and all solar, with nearly every inch of its body covered in cells.

Sono engines

The Sion is not only plastered with solar panels on the top and has thus been awarded styling awards. If you do need to plug in a Sion, a DC fast charge will get about 80% of its 190-mile range in about 30 minutes.

Like several non-solar EVs, the Sion boasts of being able to power other things like EVs that Sonos’ images cheekily suggest are stranded without solar.

Sono recently announced this commissioned the Finnish contract manufacturer Valmet as a manufacturing partnerand puts the Sion in the same hands that built the Boxster and Cayman for many years, as well as several current Mercedes models. No garage band there.


If the Aptera vehicle looks familiar because it’s been banging around like that the next big thing in at least 15 years. Now in solar-electric form, it (yet) guarantees a different look. You’ll either love the airplane-without-wings design or laugh at it and realize it’s a tricycle. But Aptera says anything that will help it blast through the air while using only 30% of the energy of an electric vehicle or hybrid.

The Aptera solar electric vehicle The Aptera solar electric vehicle

The Aptera solar electric vehicle is radically different from any car.


Its unconventional, lightweight and slippery design creates a virtuous circle: the vehicle requires a smaller, lighter battery pack, which in turn increases the vehicle’s lightness so that a meaningful state of charge can be achieved via the sun. Aptera uses one interactive mapping tool to illustrate just how much solar power you can expect. Additionally, you can configure an Aptera with battery options ranging from 250 miles to an almost incredible 1,000 miles.

That Vehicle holds two peopleand it helps if they’re good friends: the pontoon-fender-mounted cabin is cozy (or at least it is no tandem), although it has a sizeable rear storage deck reminiscent of a Jaguar E-Type.

Note that I referred to the Aptera as a vehicle, not a car, because that’s a key difference. In the humorless eyes of your local DMV clerk, the Aptera is a motorcycle, or perhaps a “car cycle.” You’d have to check the motor vehicle regulations in your state, but at least you shouldn’t need a helmet since the thing is fully enclosed. However, you may need confirmation for a motorcycle or three-wheeled vehicle. And note that as a non-car, the Aptera doesn’t have to meet the same safety standards as cars, such as: B. Airbags.

Of the three cars I showed you, this is the only one that was built sold in the US, which range from about $26,000 for 250 miles of range to about $50,000 for one with a staggering projected 1,000 miles. In a way, the Aptera makes the most sense because it’s so completely different from any other EV that it makes a case for co-owning.

Normalization or niche?

While you are deciding about solar cars, here is what I think: the real-world performance feedback will be very important as this is a new way of charging that almost no drivers have any experience with.

Nonetheless, there is something powerful about tethered charging: it allows an electric vehicle to potentially leapfrog the convenience of a petrol-powered car, rather than just trying to approach it. This corresponds to my belief that the best load is not the fastest, but the most stable and transparent.

I suspect EV-intendants will be quite skeptical about solar cars, or they could go the opposite route and embrace the concept, thanks Millions of private solar installations in the USA who set the table for technology.

Solar cars are an interesting proposition for the prepper who realizes that when almost everything is electricalmost nothing will work when the network is down. It would be nice to know that even then you still have a working car.

Finally, I have my concerns about the limited solar range these cars are delivering at a time when we’ll see that massive growth of conventional charging infrastructure; That seems to risk losing solar supply in a sea of ​​conventional charging that could make solar vehicles only the most serious environmentalist or technology dabbler.

All in all, a solar electric car has an undeniable elegance, so I’ll observe it for you.

Solar Cars Are Coming, But at What Price — and Are They Right for You? Source link Solar Cars Are Coming, But at What Price — and Are They Right for You?

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